Tennis Creates Character
USTA Mid-Atlantic, a nonprofit organization, strives to provide opportunities to build character for all individuals in the tennis community. The USTA Mid-Atlantic High School Ambassadors - a group of 25 high-schoolers - put their all into uplifting the many individuals surrounding them.
This summer, Arakai Henryson-Gibbs, a sophomore from Springfield, Va., helped her tennis community by conducting tennis clinics for children with Down syndrome. The clinics were carried out over a three-day span from August 17-19 at the YMCA in Arlington Va.
“I think these clinics impacted my community in a positive manner,” said Henryson-Gibbs. “Using the magic of tennis to bring together a community of people who may struggle with athletics, and showing them they’re capable of absolutely anything."
Teaching alongside Henryson-Gibbs were fellow USTA Mid-Atlantic Junior players: Gabrielle Berg, Zosia Henryson-Gibbs, Sara Abouzeid, and Drew Barr. Each coach taught a variety of tennis strokes including forehands, backhands, serves, and volleys.
“In the end, we got too many hugs to count,” said Henryson-Gibbs. “I loved every second of my experience as a coach, and I plan on continuing this short program, possibly making it an annual event.”
Although our ambassadors may be young, their ambition to make an impact on their peers through tennis takes their endeavors to new heights.
This is true for Anbo Li, a senior from Boyds, Md. He created “Operation Racket,” a program to collect and refurbish racquets for under-resourced youth.
“Collecting, refurbishing/restringing racquets, and then distributing them to non-profits, schools, and organizations will provide kids with the opportunity to pick up tennis at a lower entry cost,” said Li.
Li was inspired to start this program by what he saw in his own community.
“I once played a tennis match against another high school team from a lower-income area, and they were all using cheap and old racquets. My opponent had great technique and potential, but he was limited by his racquet,” said Li. “After the match, I invited him to rally and lent him my backup racquet. His level improved immediately. When I inspected his racquet, I noticed that the strings were already dead, and the frame was too light for him.”
To ensure his program success, Li enlisted fellow ambassador, Derek Yan, a senior from Potomac, Md., and founder/CEO of Linx Tennis. Through Linx Tennis, a non-profit social organization, Yan was able to help Li expand his racquet collection efforts.
In the end, Li ended up receiving and refurbishing over $4,000 worth of tennis racquets.
“I hope to help spread tennis and provide opportunities for kids to get quality racquets at a lower cost, that is what matters most to me,” said Li.
The USTA Mid-Atlantic high school ambassadors continued to push the limits in order to make sure tennis is accessible for all. Joshua Padgett, a senior from Mclean, Va., wanted to see tennis have a significant impact on others like it did to him. He completed the USTA Mid-Atlantic Summer Smash Fundraising challenge and finished in third place in the section. The money collected through the fundraiser directly supports USTA Mid-Atlantic programs that expand access to tennis.
USTA Mid-Atlantic is extremely proud of all of the high school ambassadors who continue to show character and heart. They all are truly making a difference in their communities through this sport we all love, tennis.
High School Ambassador Quick Facts:
Started in 2020 to engage high school-aged players during the COVID shutdown as a way to connect and engage this age group
Encourages students to connect with and promote tennis to their peers and participate in community service projects
Open to current HS tennis or competitive player, or tennis enthusiast in grades 9-12
In 2021 there were 25 ambassadors
Ambassadors activities included participating in regular meetings with USTA Mid-Atlantic staff, posting on social media, and volunteering at Mid-Atlantic junior events
Learn more about the program and if you know a high schooler that may be interested in being an Ambassador in 2022, encourage them to visit this page!
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.