Missouri Valley / Kansas

Spotlight on McAdams Community Center NJTL

Kendra Wicks | July 30, 2019

The National Junior Tennis and Learning program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In turn, USTA is celebrating the difference the program is making in communities across the nation. 


Alex Lee directs the NJTL chapter at McAdams Community Center in Wichita, Kansas. He played for the University of Arkansas during his college career and settled in Wichita after graduation. Lee stayed involved in tennis through the McAdams Community Center. There, he met several coaches who introduced him to their junior programs and he fell in love with helping kids grow in the game.


“I began working with the kids and it was very enjoyable for me,” Lee said. “The fact that these kids were going on and playing college tennis made things really good.”


Lee, along with Connie Robertson and Fred Johnson, worked to start the NJTL chapter in 2001. They currently have around 40 kids participating in the program and have seen hundreds come and go throughout the years. Although the NJTL program is designed for youth players, Lee never hesitates to invite parents and adults to join in.


“I figure if the parents play tennis, it will keep the kids playing tennis,” Lee said.


Athletes of all ages are encouraged to participate in drills and games. Lee is assisted by several other volunteer coaches to accommodate players of all levels. The bonds between everyone involved in the program are what keep people coming back.


“It’s making a difference in these kids’ lives,” Lee said. “There’s so many of them that go on and play college tennis, and if not, they’re playing league tennis. And if I don’t see that they’re playing, I give them a call or a text.”


While the program is designed to provide all young athletes with the chance to play tennis, it also emphasizes the importance of learning and education. Lee typically brings handmade trivia cards or other games for the kids to play. He believes the learning aspect of the program is a unique and valuable opportunity.


“To me, the best experience I’ve had was our four essay winners. That’s been the highlight of things,” Lee said. “We’ve had four winners in the past nine years.”


NJTL gives players the opportunity to compete in a national essay contest. Winners receive an all-expense paid trip to New York City to participate in the Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the US Open. Lee is looking forward to seeing his kids continue their success and growth. Recent partnerships with the Maureen Connelly Brinker Foundation and Genesis Health Club have allowed the program to continue reaching kids throughout the community.


“We are growing tennis in a community where it is most difficult,” Lee said. “It’s just the love of the game. It’s happening right here.”


To learn more about NJTLs, visit this page. 



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