Missouri Valley / Heart Of America

Kansas City Junior Tennis League Impacts Local Youth

Jerod Fox | April 13, 2020

One of the greatest joys of tennis is that it is a lifelong sport. Once someone first picks up the sport, they can play for as long as they can continue to swing a racket. 


The Kansas City Junior Tennis League (KCJTL) uses its resources to give young kids a head start on a sport that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.


“The goal is to teach tennis to players who maybe aren’t going to go play at Wimbledon, but to teach sportsmanship, tennis and team,” KCJTL Executive Director Carrie Lapin said. “Ideally, we like it for novice players because these people are learning life lessons on the court.”


Founded in 1954, the league has a rich history in the Kansas City area. They field teams from 18 different clubs in the KC metro area, playing in 10 & under, 12 & under and 13 & over divisions. Last year, over 1,000 kids participated in the league, which spans 1.5 months from the beginning of June to mid-July.

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The league is meant to teach tennis, but beyond that, to teach life lessons and give children an outlet to stay active and have fun.


“Some clubs have matching t-shirts with the clubs on them, and the kids get so excited about it,” Lapin said. “You’ll see people who are watching, not even playing, watching their friends’ team. You’ll see smiling kids, smiling parents and the sport played the way it should be.”


This year has posed some unique roadblocks for the JTL, but they are still keeping faith that tennis will return this summer. In fact, registration is already open. Within the first two days, 200 kids had already been signed up to participate.


“We’re trying to be optimistic,” Lapin said. “We just want to make sure everyone knows that tennis can happen and be hopeful. We can make amendments on the dates if by chance we have to postpone for a little bit longer.”


Registration is generally conducted by the separate clubs, which will usually have a tennis pro in charge of JTL coaching. Once a team is created, the club will set up practices and prepare for competition.


The tennis pros are in charge of practice, but once the players make it to competition, the ball is in their court. The JTL has made it a mission to give the players as much autonomy as possible.


“I try to get the parents to understand that, yes, it’s tennis, but these are life lessons that you teach them to move on,” Lapin said. “We try to have everything handled on the court and not get pros or parents involved. The goal is to teach them the right way to play tennis, not to jump in and say, ‘No, you didn’t do that right.’”

As the JTL is designed for beginning players, the league does have rules as to who can participate. According to the 2020 rulebook, players who have accumulated 500 or more USTA points on May 1 of each year in sanctioned USTA Missouri Valley tournaments are ineligible to play.


“You don’t want someone to come in and just kill everyone, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. You want these to be close matches. If you’re number one in high school tennis, you probably shouldn’t play JTL,” Lapin said.


When tennis returns, the KCJTL will be right back in action, putting smiles on the faces of kids, pros and parents around the Kansas City area.


“I love seeing the kids on the court, and seeing the pictures I get from all of the pros,” Lapin said. “I feel blessed to be a part of it because I love tennis so much, and I feel it's a good life lesson. This is how you kind of teach people how to handle life.”

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