NJTL student-athletes shine at ATA National Championships

Victoria Chiesa | August 13, 2021

The USTA National Campus played host to one of the most storied tournaments in tennis last week, and thanks in part to the USTA Foundation, promising players from National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapters from around the country were able to participate. 


The USTA Foundation awarded over $30,000 in tournament stipends to 13 NJTLs in support of their players to participate in the American Tennis Association (ATA) National Championships. The ATA is the oldest African-American tennis association in the United States, dating back more than a century, while NJTL is the flagship program of the USTA Foundation that provides free or low-cost tennis instruction and education resources to youth in under-resourced communities.


Born as an organization on Thanksgiving Day in 1916, when representatives from more than a dozen Black tennis clubs met in Washington, D.C., the ATA hosted its first national championship tournament a year later, and it has since grown to include both adult and junior divisions.


This year's championships, which hosted junior tournaments from under-10 to under-18 as well as an Open division for players over 18 and adult competition, saw seven players affiliated with NJTLs reach championship matches.

John Henry Mills (boys' 12s - NYJTL/Cary Leeds Center For Tennis & Learning), Flavius Henderson (boys' 14s - Mach Academy), Arien Thomas (girls' 12s - Mach Academy) and Adriella Samabaly (girls' 14s - Sloane Stephens Foundation) were winners in their age groups, while Vander Woody (boys 18s - Metropolitan Tennis and Education Group) and Debra Gil (girls' 14s - NYJTL/Cary Leeds Center For Tennis & Learning) finished as runners-up in their respective divisions. Donovan Spigner of the Harlem Junior Tennis Program was also the champion of the men's Open division.  


“The ATA National Tournament is an important piece of junior development for youth tennis players in the African-American community," said Jeri Ingram, executive director of MTEG, where Woody (pictured above) trains.


"The event allows players to see that there are hundreds of players who look like them and have similar challenges around the nation that are pursuing their tennis dreams. Not only do they bond through tennis, the education and social aspect of the event enhances the full tournament experience.”


In total, more than 80 players were able to participate in the tournament thanks in part to the financial assistance provided by the USTA Foundation.


“The support of the USTA Foundation is invaluable," Ingram continued. "Their support allows a larger number of players to attend the ATA tournament by removing the financial barrier and emphasizing the importance of collaboration with tennis and education, as well as community service and positive social activities.”


After the junior competition, the event also showcased an adult NTRP competition at the 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 levels in singles, doubles and mixed doubles and an unsanctioned adult event in all three competitions. All competitors are required to be active members of the ATA.

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