Buck-Horton Makes Tennis More Inclusive
The St. Louis area is a diverse community with many people of color playing tennis. That said, many players from marginalized communities have considerably less opportunity to play in local, regional and national tournaments with the USTA.
While the USTA is working tirelessly to give more opportunities to underrepresented communities, there is still a lot of work to be done. Jacqueline Buck-Horton serves as the Vice President of Community Development for the USTA St. Louis District Board. Additionally, Horton is a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee for USTA Missouri Valley. The committee’s mission is to further develop an inclusive environment across the USTA Missouri Valley where all people can be informed about and have the opportunity to interact with the sport, if they so choose, in a way that is comfortable and beneficial to them.
Outside of tennis, Horton serves as Vice President Community Development Specialist for Sterling Bank, where she is responsible for developing, implementing and administering the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The Community Reinvestment Act is a United States federal law designed to encourage commercial banks and savings associations to help meet the needs of borrowers in all segments of their communities, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.
Her work also includes designing events, activities and programs for low to moderate income communities that promote economic inclusion and provide financial education and financial stability to the community.
The Horton family was selected as the USTA St. Louis District Family of the Year for 2020, the first African-American family to ever earn the award.
Horton said there are several youth programs that really represent diversity in the Metro St. Louis area.
One of those programs is the East St. Louis Community Tennis Association (CTA) with which Horton actively holds a board position.
The CTA puts on several summer programs for area youth and works with the East St. Louis Sr. High School girls tennis team. The CTA provides lessons and mentoring, as well as equipment to play tennis.
Recently, the organization hosted a one-day tournament, inviting players from St. Louis to play the girls from East St. Louis Sr. High School. It gave the players from East St. Louis exposure to players who are accustomed to playing in USTA-sanctioned tournaments.
Horton said the support from the CTA has made a huge difference to the players at East St. Louis High School scholastically, as well because they have tennis to look forward to each day. The community as a whole has also benefited from the CTA since it provides the only playable courts in East St. Louis.
On the Missouri side of the river, the Triple A Golf & Tennis Foundation has played a vital role in providing funding for tennis tournaments, travel expenses, racquets and indoor court fees to disadvantaged junior players. Horton is also a board member for this organization.
The foundation most recently announced the roll out of a subsidiary organization - Triple A Breakpoint Tennis and Life Skills Academy - designed to work with inner city youth. This new organization has a long-standing partnership with Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club. Horton said the new 501c3 will bring more exposure to Triple A, as well.
“Triple A Breakpoint is more of a ‘boots on the ground’ organization for us,” she said.
Its mission is to build positive self-esteem, confidence, mindfulness and a pathway to post-secondary success for less advantaged youth through in school, after school, and summer tennis and educational programs. The curriculum looks towards integrating life skills with the sport of tennis, focusing on social-emotional skills.
A high school student birthed some of the most impressive work to bring tennis to a diverse population of youth. ACE Academy was established in 2015 by Aryan Motwani and provides camps during the summer for elementary and middle school students who want to learn the game. But it does more than that—at the end of each session, the students will gather to take what they have learned and connect tennis to life lessons.
Horton is extremely impressed with Motwani’s work ethic and desire to give back to the community.
“He’s doing such great work and puts so much passion at such a young age and spends most of his summer giving back, so I have been wholeheartedly supporting and defending his efforts.”
Net Rushers Tennis Association is also doing impressive work to bring tennis to underserved youth. Its mission is to promote the game of tennis in the St. Louis metropolitan area by providing virtually free and low-cost tennis instruction to culturally diverse youth.
“These programs include people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds - mainly black and brown people. Training allows them to be very competitive in the mainstream population and above all, they offer free programs. Also making tennis fun is what allows you to get talented young kids to stay engaged with the sport,” Horton said.
Horton said despite the great work being done at the district level, there is still opportunity to be better.
“We can be better by providing more opportunities for people from underrepresented communities to be involved and participate in tennis, including but not limited to people with disabilities, multicultural communities and LGBTI communities,” Horton said. “We can provide advice, information, guidance, support and resources for all clubs and communities that want to become inclusive to people from underrepresented groups. We can provide access to opportunities aligned to those offered to mainstream tennis players. In addition, leaders in the tennis industry need to be able to step out of the box and meet people where they are.”
Horton also noted many local small organizations need assistance and struggle in areas like applying for grants. She said there needs to be representatives available to assist those groups, as well as more engagement with multicultural stakeholders like the Urban League and Beyond Housing.
Additionally, she said there needs to be opportunities to educate the club owners and coaches. For example, for over a decade, Terry Ward at Frontenac Racket Club provides several months of free court time during the winter months to a diverse group of high performance players.
“I personally would like to see a partnership for the deaf and hard of hearing community. My ultimate purpose of this is to use tennis as a vehicle for kids to earn college scholarships and for adults to have a recreational outlet.”