Chris Foster Gives Back To Omaha Tennis Community
To honor their 100th anniversary in 2020, the USTA Missouri Valley is recognizing 100 deserving recipients with the Gold Star Award. This award recognizes contributions in growing the game of tennis in the community. Omaha’s Chris Foster is one of the recipients.
Tennis has always been part of Chris Foster’s life, so giving back to the community only seemed natural to him when he and his sister Jenny started the Gifford Park Youth Tennis Program back in 1994. The program, which is free to participants, provides racquets and lessons to those who take part. Typically around 75 kids take advantage of the program each summer, which is in the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in Omaha, according to the last census.
“We provide free racquets to about 35-40 youth with perfect attendance and good sportsmanship,” he explained. “The kids learn basic groundstrokes, volleys and rallying skills. Also during June and July, volunteer instructors teach youth tennis lessons on Wednesday mornings in Gifford Park.”
Foster said the program receives donations from individuals and grants, but the instructors are volunteering their time, energy, tennis skills and mentorship to the children. Some of those children who went through the program come back later to volunteer as well.
“Many of the good things in my life have come directly or indirectly through tennis, so I want to share my love of the game with people of all ages, especially young people,” Foster said. “Seeing the reaction and joy on a kid’s face when they experience hitting a good shot or even just connecting with the ball - their enthusiasm is contagious. It’s been tremendous to see some of our dedicated youth participants who have improved to the point they are now volunteer instructors!”
The goal of the Gifford Park Youth Tennis Program is to teach kids the basic skills in tennis. For those that show more interest, they are able to sometimes provide scholarships in the fall and winter months so those kids can play indoors competitively.
As for what the future holds, he wants to continue to provide this service to kids who wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to the sport.
“We want to continue to provide a quality program for free available to anyone so youth learn to enjoy tennis and develop life skills as well,” he added.
In addition to the tennis program, the Gifford Park Neighborhood Association also includes other youth activities, community and youth gardens, adventure playground, clean-ups, block parties, neighborhood markets and more.
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