Q&A with Impactful Tennis
Recently USTA NorCal had the opportunity to interview Impactful Tennis founder Jake Hammerman, a high shcool tennis player who wanted to make an impact in his community. Having founded Impactful Tennis, Jake wanted to "emphasize how others can initiate projects similar to Impactful Tennis in their communities."
Q&A with Impactful Tennis Founder, Jake Hammerman
Q: For those who might not know, what is Impactful Tennis?
A: The three main goals of Impactful Tennis are to raise money for Meals on Wheels to help isolated seniors receive food support and companionship, provide a healthy activity for younger kids, and empower teens to make a difference in their local community. The project does that by allowing high school tennis players to give lessons to younger kids in exchange for charitable donations to Meals on Wheels Diablo Region, positively impacting both ends of the age spectrum. Meals on Wheels Diablo Region aids homebound and vulnerable seniors in Contra Costa County by providing seven nutritious meals/week, companionship, and services for seniors to address issues with housing, elder abuse, long-term care, and/or depression. I have had the opportunity to meet some of the seniors that benefit from the services of Meals on Wheels Diablo Region and it was amazing to see how much the organization meant to them.
Q: What made you want to start Impactful Tennis?
A: The pandemic came at a transformative time in my life as a teenager beginning to understand the world. As I watched the news, I was scared and saddened by everything that I was seeing. I knew I wanted to help out, especially the elderly who were most at-risk. A couple years ago, my grandfather died of Parkinson's disease and one of my grandmothers currently struggles with Alzheimer's. I am very close with my grandparents and understand the great deal of support that seniors need, which the pandemic only aggravated.
I began researching and reaching out to organizations working with seniors in my community. While all of them informed me I was too young at age 15 to volunteer, what they needed most was donations. I came up with the idea to use my tennis skills to help them raise money, and Impactful Tennis was born. Many younger kids in the area, like myself, had their summer plans canceled, so I knew Impactful Tennis would be beneficial to both ends of the age spectrum. Because tennis is easy to play socially distanced, giving tennis lessons that could get kids outside and exercising during a lockdown and have something to look forward to was feasible and became very popular. The project was initiated during the pandemic, but has continued each summer as elderly care remains a pressing concern and many kids really enjoy the tennis lessons.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you had recently faced if any?
A: I had no prior coaching experience before Impactful Tennis and was quite nervous and a little unsure about giving lessons initially. During the first part of our first summer, I would spend a lot of time trying to come up with ideas for lessons and would work to create lesson plans. But now, after so many lessons, giving a lesson feels natural.
Q: Your team is mostly all in high school, or freshmen in college. Can you explain what that experience is like while having founded Impactful Tennis?
A: The team is entirely high schoolers. On the website, I know it lists people as freshmen in college but those people gave lessons through the organization this last summer, before they went off to college. It has been great to work with my peers on a team. Each instructor creates their own schedule and lets me know the times/dates they would like to give lessons that summer so that I can create one composite schedule.
Q: What would you say were some of your biggest successes recently?
A: This last summer, our third, Impactful Tennis reached $34,725 in donations raised for Meals on Wheels Diablo Region. We also surpassed 800 lessons given as an organization, having given 808 total. We also doubled the size of our organization this last summer. In the first summer there were five instructors, In the second summer there were nine, and this summer we had nineteen instructors giving lessons. Impactful Tennis has captured lots of attention from news outlets. We have been featured on Good Morning America, KRON 4 San Francisco, East Bay Times, SF Gate, and in various magazines.
Q: What does it mean to be a part of Impactful Tennis?
A: I never expected the project would become as successful as it is. I am very proud to have started something that has made and continues to make a tangible impact in my community. I’m very thankful to all the other high school athletes who volunteer as instructors and all the parents who thought our organization was worthy of signing their kids up for.
Q: What does Impactful Tennis mean to you personally?
A: Impactful Tennis has given me so much confidence in terms of leadership and communication skills. It’s definitely what I am most proud of from my time in high school and I know my experience leading the project will stick with me in my future pursuits.