Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Perfect Match

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Perfect Match

Article excerpt

For many city kids, advanced tennis training can be prohibitively expensive. The costs of year-round coaching, court time, travel and tournament fees are far beyond the reach of many inner-city youngsters. Since 1986, the Reebok Urban Youth Tennis Academy in New York City has helped to defray the high cost of advanced tennis training by providing an annual scholarship of free coaching, equipment, and tournament travel expenses for 50 youngsters ages eight to 18, selected at open tryouts held at the USTA National Tennis Center.

The program has since helped open the door for hundreds of economically underprivileged youngsters to develop the skills and self-confidence needed to become tournament-level players. Reebok's expanded sponsorship of the program this year to Washington, D.C. will provide the children of this city with the same opportunity.

The Reebok Urban Youth Tennis Academy, administered by The Washington Tennis Foundation and supported by Reebok International Ltd., provides full scholarships of advanced coaching, equipment and tournament expenses for 25 juniors each year. "The aim of the program is to develop the native talent of our local players," said Albert Tucker, the foundation's director of programs.

"In addition," continued Tucker, "The Reebok Urban Youth Tennis Academy offers opportunities for talented area youngsters who would normally be unable to pay for this level of tennis training."

"The Reebok Urban Youth Tennis Academy is an excellent way to provide more and more aspiring young tennis players with a chance to reach what before was a financially unattainable goal--to excel in tennis," said Mark Holtzman, senior director of sports marketing for Reebok International Ltd. "Reebok is proud to be a part of this program and the development of its young participants."

"Tennis can be a terrific springboard for dedicated youngsters who are willing to put in the time and effort to become competitive players," Tucker said. "This program exposes youngsters to the sport's social and athletic benefits, and gives participants a chance to possibly earn a collegiate tennis scholarship."

Tryouts to select the 25 children took place in July 1992. Applicants performed drills in ground strokes, volleying and serving in front of a panel of judges including tennis professionals and instructors. Players who excelled during the first day of drills were called back for a second day of tryouts.

As sponsor of the academy, Reebok International was guaranteed a flagship program which could draw from thousands of young players in school and neighborhood programs and in the Tennis Center programs of the Washington Tennis Foundation. But perhaps e deciding factor for Reebok was that the two organizations shared a common mission: Tennis for kids--for free.

Prior to establishing the Reebok Academy, the foundation provided a solid instructional component for beginner and intermediate players. The academy now serves as the pinnacle of these on-going programs.

Through its USTA/DC Public Schools Program, the Washington Tennis Foundation trains public school physical education teachers, then supports them with school assemblies, workshops, equipment, celebrity/guest instructors and the latest techniques for teaching tennis to kids. The foundation's first goal is to make the teachers enthusiastic about the game of tennis and then give them the means to pass that enthusiasm along to their students.

The foundation's AfterSchool program plays during the spring and fall. Through this program, the foundation teaches tennis to hundreds of eight -- to 18-year-old children at D.C. Department of Recreation sites and at local schools. Beginning players and experienced players are divided into separate classes, each learning for one hour, twice a week. While all of the foundation's programs remain low cost, the foundation offers the AfterSchool Program at no cost to participants. …

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