KIDS' DAY A SMASH HIT
WITH CHILDREN AT FED CUP ASHEVILLE
Ashley Marshall | February 7, 2018
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – As Team USA’s top women are set to begin the defense of their Fed Cup title, the stars of tomorrow had a chance to get inspired by tennis at a fun-filled kids' day community event.
Hundreds of children took part in the activities as part of a wave of Net Generation initiatives being rolled out across the city over the coming days in conjunction with the Fed Cup tie.
Net Generation is the USTA’s new unified youth initiative designed to inspire the next wave of tennis players by making the game more fun and accessible than ever before.
“We are impacting a lot of kids,” said Kelly Gaines, the executive director of USTA North Carolina. “It’s a proven fact that if you have any exposure to tennis as a kid, you’re far more likely to play it as an adult. There aren’t too many sports that give you the life aspect, the social aspect and the educational aspect. ADVERTISEMENT
“Just giving children that exposure to feeling the ball on the strings is priceless and could set you up for a change in your life.”
On Wednesday, more than 250 fourth graders from Oakley Elementary School and Avery’s Creek Elementary School in Buncombe County attended a Net Generation kids’ day event in the exhibition hall of the U.S. Cellular Center.
Youngsters earned the opportunity to attend the clinic after winning an essay contest that asked them to write about one of three topics: the Fed Cup, The Netherlands or women in tennis.
"Net Generation is an incredible program at the grassroots level," Rinaldi said. "For us to be able to give back to our sport that has given us so much, we're so blessed to be where we are. This is where we started, so it's really important for us to come back and to inspire young players like we were inspired at their young age.
"You feel good walking away from this event. You feel inspired. This is what it's all about. To see their smiles, to hear those cheers and to see these kids inspired, this is what it's all about for us."
On Friday, an orange ball camp will be held for children at Grove Park Inn, where youngsters will develop their skills with USTA North Carolina coaches. Then on Saturday and Sunday, three more community outreach events will take place across Asheville.
A trio of youth days powered by Net Generation will see youngsters taking part in 90-minute tennis clinics at the U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville Racquet Club Downtown and Asheville Racquet Club South.
In the clinic at the exhibition hall of the U.S. Cellular Center, North Carolina National Junior Tennis and Learning players aged 6 to 12 will participate in drills and games. Among the North Carolina-based NJTL programs attending the clinics are HOLLA!, the Greater Johnston County Community Tennis Association, Winston Salem Tennis Inc., Salvation Army Ken Carlson Boys and Girls Club, Lenny Simpson Tennis and Education Fund and the YWCA of Asheville.
NJTL is made up of more than 350 tennis and education chapters nationwide that are supported by the USTA Foundation through grants, scholarships and technical assistance. These chapters reach more than 225,000 under-resourced youth on an annual basis.
The youngsters from the NJTL programs were joined by the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Asheville and the Halifax County Catalyst for Healthy Eating and Active Living.
Middle- and high school-aged youngsters from North Carolina will take part in the clinics at the ARC Downtown location. And at the ARC South site, the USTA, USTA Southern section and USTA North Carolina will sponsor a clinic and team competition for three boys and three girls aged 10 and under from each of the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
Following the clinics, the groups attending clinics at the Asheville Racquet Club locations will meet up with the group at the arena to pick up t-shirts and noisemakers before cheering on Team USA’s Fed Cup team.
Prior to the start of matches on Saturday, 50 children will be selected to take part in the opening ceremonies, and 10 others will be picked to escort the players from each nation onto the court.
In addition, five children will be selected to participate in the on-court coin toss prior to each match, and another 16 players will take part in an on-court demonstration, presented by Net Generation. On Sunday, four wheelchair athletes were also invited to take part in a demonstration to showcase wheelchair tennis, led by North Carolina native Conner Stroud.
“How cool is it that you get to be on the same court as Serena and Venus and Coco Vandeweghe?” Gaines said. “I would have to pinch myself to believe it’s real. This is certainly the opportunity of a lifetime for so many of these kids.”