Get Social with Tennis
Black History Month is an opportunity to celebrate and amplify the voices that enrich our tennis community in the Mid-Atlantic. This month, we are exploring how African-Americans in the region are finding, creating, and building community through tennis.
The possibilities are endless when you pick up a tennis racquet for the first time. In addition to getting a full-body workout on the court, you will build friendships, satisfy your craving for competition, and build confidence.
Take it from Andrea Rice, who started playing tennis at 10 years old in Southern California and is now an active Mid-Atlantic League player and is currently training to represent Team USA in the 2022 Seniors World Championships in May. “Our family joined a tennis club that had a great junior program,” said Rice. “I got hooked into both the tennis and social aspects of the junior program. During the summers I’d spend most of the day at the club playing tennis, swimming, and hanging out with my friends.”
It was at that moment, Andrea knew that tennis was going to be a core part of her life. Tennis is a lifetime sport that can be enjoyed at any age and any level. Through the years, Andrea has created her community on the courts, while enjoying the sport she loves.
“When I am on the court, I love to compete,” Rice said. “It’s a fun way to get exercise, and it doesn’t feel like exercise at all. Jogging, working out in a gym, getting on a cardio machine all feel like exercise to me, meaning the only reason I’m doing it is to get exercise, and I struggle to lose myself in that. The whole time I am thinking, ‘how much longer.’”
But not with tennis.
Tennis is a game that pulls you into “the zone,” plus when you are on court you can’t resist the fun both from the sport itself and the social connections you make and grow.
“I have so many great friends around the world that I’ve met through tennis,” Rice said. “When I started playing tournaments again when I was 45 I reconnected with people I’d played against in the juniors in Southern California. I’ve competed for Team USA for the last several years and now have some tennis friends that I look forward to seeing when I’m abroad. For me, tennis has also been a great way to stay in shape and unwind after a stressful day or week.”
When Andrea is not on the court, she is making an impact in the community as managing director at Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) where she co-leads the launch of MLT Black Equity at Work Certification. This is a first-of-its-kind comprehensive standard for employers committed to achieving Black equity. Her background is rooted in helping organizations solve complex problems and translate big ideas into scalable actions. She uses these skills and experiences to help grow the game of tennis across the Mid-Atlantic.
As a way to spread her love for the game, and give back through tennis, Andrea serves on the Board of Directors for Washington Tennis and Education Foundation (WTEF) in Washington D.C.
“There are so many great life lessons learned through tennis. You learn how to contribute as part of a team, how to win and lose, how to recover from setbacks, how to work towards a goal,” Rice said.
“Those are invaluable life lessons that tennis and WTEF specifically help instill in the children that participate in our programming. WTEF has a long history of serving the community and a fantastic leadership team and dedicated board,” she added.
The power of tennis is undeniable. Using this sport as a vehicle for community growth and well-being is something that everyone can play a part in.
When asked about her perspective on diversity in tennis, Andrea said, “Tennis is a fantastic way to connect people who don’t normally interact with each other. I think both locally and nationally there’s a lot of room for growth here. It feels like there are parallel communities that don’t intersect enough and the sport isn’t perceived as being inclusive.”
Inclusive tennis opportunities are a priority for USTA Mid-Atlantic and are made possible through community programming, thanks to organizations like WTEF and other community tennis associations working in alignment on this priority. Rice noted that the work being done across the Mid-Atlantic to make tennis accessible for all is vital. It ensures that everyone has an opportunity to pick up a racquet and enjoy the endless benefits the sport has to offer.
“Looking at trends, I think the industry will likely need to embrace more of the social elements that make the sport so appealing,” Rice said when asked what changes she would like to see in the tennis industry. “Perhaps, continue to evolve event formats to attract more people.”
Players will come to be social but will continue to play tennis because of the community they’ve created, life skills learned, and physical and mental well-being.
If Andrea Rice had one wish for the future generations of tennis players, it would be simple and straightforward: “Keep playing,” she said. “Tennis is one of the few sports you can play your entire life and it is fun socially!”
She further describes tennis in the Mid-Atlantic as abundant. There is something out there for everyone. “Whether you’re just getting started with tennis or are at a very competitive level, there are a lot of players in the Mid-Atlantic to play with,” Andrea shared.
Get started today by checking out local tennis programs in your area. Let USTA Mid-Atlantic help you find your place out on the tennis court.
USTA Mid-Atlantic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to promoting tennis and its physical, social, and emotional health benefits. Learn about our impact in the Section and how USTA Mid-Atlantic creates community, character, and well-being.
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