Midwest Tennis Service Representatives Create Virtual Learning Space for Tennis
Tennis is (virtually) back in session for students in Ohio. What started with the I Promise School, supported by the LeBron James Family Foundation in Akron, Ohio, has now shifted to a plan for students across the Midwest still learning virtually.
Rebecca Hancart, Tennis Service Representative for the USTA Northeastern Ohio District (NEOTA), said she has been targeting the I Promise School for the last year, hoping tennis would become part of the curriculum. Once she had the green light, though, the entire school went virtual. Each third grader was provided with a Net Generation tennis racquet, ball and net tape to learn the basics of the sport through their physical education class. With the onset of COVID-19, though, NEOTA had to get creative.
As students returned home for virtual learning, Hancart decided that tennis could go home with them, too. In addition to the equipment they already had, a second racquet was provided so students would be able to learn tennis at home with a family member.
Next came the question of how they would deliver fun and digestible tennis lessons at home. Hancart saw how accessible a Google Classroom could be with her own kids and wondered if that might be the answer. So, she immediately got to work.
The first step in making this idea a reality was seeing how other organizations maintained their Classrooms. Hancart consulted the Advantage Cleveland National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapter to gain insight from them. She then worked closely with Jim Amick, Tennis Service Representative for USTA Ohio Valley (OVTA), on what specific content would go into the Classroom. The TSRs utilized much of the at-home content the USTA had already produced while putting a fun spin on the information.
It was at this point that Hancart and Amick realized this could be much bigger than the students at the I Promise School. Amick took the Classroom back with him to Ohio Valley and has seen success so far.
"OVTA is partnering with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, Greater Cincinnati Tennis Association and the Cincinnati Tennis Foundation to offer free equipment and live Zoom tennis in locations in Cincinnati's most underprivileged neighborhoods and available online to YMCAs across the city," said Amick. "The students will be offered live tennis instruction and the virtual classroom for ongoing tennis at home."
In addition to expanding to Ohio Valley, Hancart already has 13 new schools signed up to use the virtual classroom.
Hancart says that the ease of use and flexibility to match individual lesson plans at different schools have been a big hit among physical education teachers and sees this going beyond students in Ohio.
"The great thing about this is, I release it out to them [teachers], and they do whatever they want with it," said Hancart.
Both Hancart and Amick are excited to see how this idea transforms into something larger and keeps growing across the Midwest as a way to keep students engaged in tennis.
"I think it's a great way to encourage kids to [learn tennis] at home with their parents, and I think it's a great way to keep tennis on their minds when it's not the summer," said Hancart.
From a simple idea to execution, Hancart is proud of the group effort it took to make the Google Classroom for tennis a reality. She hopes that tennis will become an outlet for students across the Midwest as an easily accessible sport during an uncertain time.
"I really think the possibilities for it are endless."
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