NJTL 50 for 50:
Erin Maher | May 21, 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 shape 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 Richard Ader, founder of the Vermont-based Bennington Aces NJTL. Ader is currently the managing partner of U.S. Realty Advisors, a company he founded in 1989. In 2016, after becoming a tennis player himself, he founded Bennington Aces. Ader is currently the secretary on the USTA Foundation Board, and in 2018 was honored with the USTA Foundation "Serving Up Dreams" award and was celebrated at the annual gala.
The Richard Ader File
Name: Richard Ader
NJTL Chapter: Benninton Aces
Role with NJTL: Bennington Aces founder, current secretary on the USTA Foundation Board
Year became active in NJTL: 2016
USTA.com: What does the NJTL mean to you?ADVERTISEMENT
Richard Ader: The NJTL means to me, bringing to underserved children, tennis and learning, and maybe with the emphasis on learning. Tennis is a great sport to introduce them to, that most children don’t really know about, but with the NJTL they learn about tennis, and they learn a different part of learning.
USTA.com: What inspired you to build Bennington Aces?
Richard Ader: I built an NJTL in Bennington, Vermont, because what became apparent to me, was that there was a tremendously underserved community in Bennington.
One of the schools we service, 80% of the parents live under the poverty line; the town of Bennington, 48% of the children have free lunch, which is also under the poverty line, and it was crying for something to bring them all together, both the children and the community.
What was inside of me is that I saw a tremendous need, for a town like most rural towns in America, that needed something to help it identify itself. I have a home there. It bothers me, the poverty, and I felt this would be a great thing for the community.
My first annual meeting, which was in California, I really found out more about what the NJTL was about, and I said, “Bennington is a perfect place for it.”
The town of Bennington also recognized that it needed something, and it gave me a park to build a tennis club on. When I built the tennis club was when I recognized that it was very important to bring children and helped underserved children in our community.
USTA.com: Were there any obstacles you faced started Bennington Aces?
Richard Ader: Initially, the first principal we met with was very resistant. He said, “I’ve crossed three sports off of my list: tennis, golf and skiing.”
He thought of them as elite sports.
After we made the presentation, he was all in. He said, “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen.”
And to this day, he provides us with as many children as he can, to participate in our program on an after-school basis. He’s helped us gain three other schools as well.
So within Bennington, we’re now in four schools. We’re now progressing with the children. We do third through fifth grade, we’re now progressing to sixth grade.
USTA.com: How has the response been to the Bennington Aces?
Richard Ader: The parents couldn’t be more thrilled about what’s taking place, in fact, many of them have become salesmen for us in that they bring in other children.
USTA.com: What do you enjoy most about Bennington Aces?
Richard Ader: There’s a commercial which says it’s priceless, and it’s priceless. It’s spectacular to see these kids, who’ve never heard of tennis, because the closet tennis club to Bennington, Vermont, is probably 50 miles away. So they have soccer, baseball, basketball. But tennis they never really heard of, and parents don’t say, “Let’s go watch the US Open on television.”
So we have some children now who are getting really good. We have one right now in sixth grade who comes back voluntarily, and she’s probably going to play on the high school team in a few years.