NJTL 50 for 50:
Erin Maher | April 16, 2019
As the USTA Foundation celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the National Junior Tennis & Learning network, USTA.com looks at 50 NJTL leaders and alumni who helped shaped this incredible community dedicated to helping youth strive for academic and athletic excellence on the tennis court, in the classroom and in life.
In this installment, we catch up with NJTL alumni DA Abrams, the former Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the USTA.
The D.A. Abrams File
Name: D.A. Abrams
NJTL Chapter: NJTL Philadelphia at Mander Playground
Role with NJTL: Alumni
Year became active in NJTL: 1975
How did you get involved with NJTL?
D.A. Abrams: I saw this gentleman on TV with a little afro. His name was Arthur Ashe. I saw Arthur Ashe playing with so much grace, so much swagger, if you will. I kind of thought that I could do it, too. ADVERTISEMENT I did go out to the local tennis court, and a friend of mine, Greg Williams, had turned me onto the NJTL program. Just really, thank God for Chris and Leif Beck [founders of the NJTL in Philadelphia]. It was at that time that I really fell in love with the sport. The program was founded, not so much to create tennis champions but to really create champions of life.
What was your NTJL experience like?
D.A. Abrams: The program was pretty extensive. I played from novice to intermediate to advanced, to then they had something called the tournament team. But at Mander Playground, we certainly had all three of those levels—novice, intermediate and advanced. Novice was every day, but it was in the evening, as I recall, and maybe like a couple hours.
Intermediate was during the day, just as advanced was. I was on the court two to three hours a day, five days a week. We had four regions there, so it was a friendly competition. You played through to the region, and if you won the region, you would go to the championship and see what you did there.
As far as the educational aspect, we were encouraged to read and have good grades. So the educational piece I would say was that we had to read a book, then discuss the book. I believe it was a seven-week program in the summer, and then some kids—I was one—would have the opportunity to play maybe once a week on a Saturday at a local tennis club.
Basically the better you did, from a results standpoint, the more opportunities you would get to play.
How has the NJTL affected your life?
D.A. Abrams: It was a difference maker for me. Now, I’m pretty certain I would have gone on to college and all of that. I have two older sisters. One of them went to Penn State, so I would have gone to school, I’m sure. But I don’t know if I would. You know, I love to travel, I love to try new things. I think tennis contributed to that part of who I am. I’m fairly competitive. Tennis contributed to that. I know how to deal with winning. I also know how to deal with losing. Tennis teaches you all of that in the heat of the moment.
I can recall back to when I was younger, having to make decisions. Like, I want to go out and hang with my buddies, want to go to this party, but I have a tournament in the morning. So am I going to go out, or am I going to stay home and prepare for the tournament? I made a lot of decisions, such as that, that have really shaped me.
And also the rewards of hard, consistent work—smart work over a period of time. Tennis has really helped me with that. I was a decent player; I didn’t have a lot of talent. But what I knew was that if I worked hard and smart and did the right things and was prepared, I would have a good chance of getting a positive result. So that has really helped me over the years.
Photo (l to r): Arthur Ashe, Philadelphia NJTL founder Chris Beck and DA Abrams.