Midwest / Southeastern Michigan

Burton: Make tennis accessible to all

Michele Burton

The Detroit News published this commentary on May 7, 2023.

May is National Tennis Month, a time to celebrate the rich programs that bring sports and education together for hundreds of underserved youths in Detroit each year.


May is also designated Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and one of the leading lights in Southeastern Michigan tennis is entrepreneur and educator Thành Tran.  


In the mid-1970s, when he was six years old, Thành and his parents fled Vietnam and then relocated to the United States. As an owner of TennisTEC, the first tennis simulator in the nation, and a philanthropist, Thành is the executive director of the Tennis & Tech program that is affiliated with his Accelerate4KIDS Foundation. The goal of the program is to educate K-12 kids in tennis and technology, including drones, 3D printing, robotics, coding and other STEM subjects.  


Thành partners with YMCA Detroit, Teach For America and others to help extend the reach of a sport that studies show can add 9.7 years to a person’s life.


However, Thành is just one of the civic-minded tennis professionals bringing the physical, social and cognitive benefits of tennis to the residents of metro Detroit.


Jerry Wysinger, a former NCAA Division I basketball star and certified tennis coach, is another unsung hero whose work has changed lives. For the last eight years, Wysinger has brought hundreds of people into his Flat Out Tennis Academy at Chandler Park.  


Leonora King, founder of the Palmer Park Tennis Academy, and Burrell Shields, president of the Motor City Tennis Club, are two more notable leaders.  


King, the first Black tennis player at Western Michigan University, works to overcome the sport’s exclusivity, cost and accessibility — big roadblocks for inner-city kids — by using public parks as the educational venue. Based on impact, the USTA named King's academy the National Community Tennis Association of the Year in 2020. The Motor City Tennis Club, going strong for 94 years, also has remained steadfast in its mission to promote the sport of tennis to the underserved in metro Detroit. 


During National Tennis Month, the Southeastern Michigan District of the USTA partnered with these leaders and others to deliver free or low-cost tennis instruction and games at local parks to highlight the health benefits, accessibility and diversity of the game.


This is an exciting time to get involved in what I believe is the best sport in the world. Playing tennis will not only help you to live longer, but it will also provide a healthy and fun way to meet new friends. 


For providers like Thành, Wysinger, King and Shields, National Tennis Month provides yet another opportunity to demonstrate the positive impact tennis has on people of all ages and abilities. 


So, pick up a racquet and join them.


Michele Burton is the executive director of USTA Southeastern Michigan, a district of the United States Tennis Association.

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