Section Creates a Mental Health Weekend for Junior Players
USTA Mid-Atlantic Welcomes the Matt Stevenson Junior Tennis Tournament to Bring Awareness to Importance of Mental Health
Section Creates a Mental Health Weekend for Junior Players October 2 - 3, 2021
At the 2021 US Open rising tennis stars became household names as millions watched young, talented players catapult into the limelight. Also, in the spotlight from this year’s tournament - Mental Health. Tennis athletes at the US Open had access to licensed mental health providers, quiet rooms and other services making mental health wellness as easily and readily available as other physical care. The topic of mental health was in the dialogue surrounding and during the tournament and professional tennis players are noticeably speaking up and out about the importance of mental health.
For the many young fans and youth tennis players watching, this openness around mental health, and players speaking about their needs for mental health care, couldn't have come at a more critical time.
Mental health awareness among young people is crucial today as the youth mental health crisis continues to grow in the U.S., exacerbated most recently by the pandemic. According to JAMA Pediatrics, 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.1 Prioritizing mental health, awareness, and education is important to help reduce stigmas and bring to the forefront ways youth can stay mentally healthy and give them resources for seeking help.
USTA Mid-Atlantic Section recognizes the significance of mental health, especially among youth athletes, and the critical need for heightened awareness and education around being mentally healthy. As a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, USTA Mid-Atlantic is committed to promoting tennis and its physical, social, and emotional health benefits.
The Section is having a special “mental health weekend,” for youth tennis players October 2 - 3, 2021 to bring attention to this important subject and encourage players and their families to discuss and take time for mental well-being as part of their tennis training, competition, and overall well-being.
"As a tennis parent myself, I am very aware of the complexities of adolescence and all the pressures and challenges our young players can face,” says Rachel Kros, director of competition and youth play for USTA Mid-Atlantic Section. “It is essential to the overall well-being of all young athletes that there is open dialogue about the importance of mental health, as well as dedicated time for breaks to focus on well being including rest, recovery and reflection. We are proud to be creating an intentional way for youth players and their families in the Mid-Atlantic to focus on mental health as part of their overall development and growth.”
Cornerstone to the mental health weekend is the Matt Stevenson Junior Tennis Tournament (MSJTT), organized and sponsored by the ProtoStar Foundation, a San Diego-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which develops innovative projects that have an impactful social mission and promotes the importance of mental health for adolescents.
This special Level 5 Doubles Only Open tournament, taking place at the Rock Creek Tennis Center in Washington, D.C., aims to address the national teen depression, anxiety, and suicide crisis by engaging adolescents through a sport they love and promoting dialogue and understanding of these issues. The MSJTT, inaugurated in 2019, was the first junior tennis tournament to promote mental health as part of the event. It has now expanded to a series of tournaments in 2021 that kicked off in San Diego earlier in September and continued to Flushing Meadows, New York, right after the US Open. The late Matt Stevenson, the inspiration for the tournament, was a young, generous, and passionate tennis professional who ran successful junior tennis programs in McLean, Virginia. Before tragically taking his own life in 2017 at the age of 32, he had written extensively about his own mental health issues and had asked that kids be made aware of the importance of staying mentally healthy and to seek help if they needed it.
“Depression, anxiety, and suicide are difficult and sensitive topics to talk about both in sports and in everyday life, but they must be addressed,” says Gary P. Poon, president and founder, ProtoStar Foundation. “Mental health is a serious issue that has been around for a while and has gotten more attention only very recently. Our hope is that the MSJTT Series will help destigmatize mental illness and make mental health part of the conversation – whether on the tennis court, in the locker room, or around the kitchen table. Talking can save lives – the more comfortable we can get adolescents in discussing mental health issues, the more likely they will seek help when they need it. If we can make a positive difference in just one young person’s life, it will be worth all the time, effort, and resources we are putting into making the MSJTT Series a success.”
ProtoStar is collaborating with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to introduce The Power of Mental Health®, an awareness campaign that provides a forum to talk about depression, anxiety, and suicide prevention in a sensitive and inspiring way. AFSP will be at the tournament to provide practical information on mental health and positive steps that can be taken to achieve it, along with information from the National Institute of Mental Health.
This tournament is one of only two events running in the Section during the mental health weekend, with the other event being a low-pressure Level 7 youth tournament hosted by David LeMair Tennis in Falls Church, Va.
USTA Mid-Atlantic encourages youth players to either play one of the two events offered or choose to take a quiet weekend and reflect on the importance of mental health. As the Section looks ahead to 2022, mental health will continue to be a focus to ensure youth players are incorporating opportunities to focus on this aspect of their overall wellness and as an integral part of their performance and training in tennis. The Section will look to plan additional mental health weekends as much as possible within the schedule for youth tennis tournaments and events.
Tennis parents, players, and coaches can explore additional resources on mental health and sports from:
Aspen Institute Project Play: Why the time is now to coach mental health in youth sports
Positive Coaching Alliance: Mental Health in Sports & Addressing Teen Athlete Suicide
USTA: [WEBINAR RECORDING] Mental health, your child and tennis (with Dr. Larry Lauer)
USTA is hosting new webinars this fall for tennis parents that focus on mental and physical health and wellness for competitive youth players. Review the schedule and register to attend the sessions.
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.
1 Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, “US National and State-Level Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders and Disparities of Mental Health Care Use in Children”, (February 11, 2019).