Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Tennis, Everyone! across America, Park and Recreation Departments Are Teaming Up with Local Tennis Enthusiasts to Help Benefit Communities and Change Lives

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Tennis, Everyone! across America, Park and Recreation Departments Are Teaming Up with Local Tennis Enthusiasts to Help Benefit Communities and Change Lives

Article excerpt

Professional tennis' glitziest tournament, the U.S. Open, has an interesting secret: It's played entirely in a public park (Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, New York). This makes sense. At its core, tennis is an egalitarian game that embodies such bedrock American ideals as self-improvement, work ethic and sportsmanship. Nowhere does this shine more brightly than on the thousands of tennis courts in public parks across the country where players of all ages, abilities and backgrounds gather to trade groundstrokes and stories. It's a beautiful site and a movement worth growing.

Organized tennis in public parks exists largely thanks to collaborations between Community Tennis Associations (CTAs) and local park departments. CTAs--often affiliated with the United States Tennis Association (USTA), tennis' national governing body--offer tennis programming to the communities they serve. Charged with developing and promoting tennis at its grassroots, the USTA has more than 1,000 registered CTAs across the United States. Often, these programs, such as tennis instruction and leagues, are played on public park courts. In the simplest of terms, CTAs supply the tennis expertise and programing; public parks provide the venue, promotion and facility maintenance.

Many CTAs leverage tennis and education to help youth in underserved communities through the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network. Through more than 500 nonprofit youth development organizations, the NJTL network provides free or low-cost tennis and education programming to more than 225,000 under-resourced youth.

"The USTA is proud to be a part of these dynamic park partnerships with local programs whom we've supported for so many years," says USTA Chairman, CEO and President, Katrina Adams. "These programs are the backbone to our mission of promoting and developing the growth of tennis. We are inspired by their dedication and commitment to generating everlasting impact on children on and off the court, as well as their families. As a player who grew up learning tennis on a public park court, I know firsthand that CTAs and NJTLs are invaluable to our great sport, as well as help our communities thrive. Many champions who we have come to admire are products of these programs, and we look forward to more champions and other leaders as a result of the great work of CTA, NJTL and public park partnerships nationwide."

To get a better understanding of this partnership, highlighted below are four communities where tennis in parks is thriving. Each story is unique, but readers will notice a common theme: When CTAs, NJTLS and public parks team up, everyone wins.

Trenton, New Jersey

In the heart of this proud city stands the history-rich Cadwalader Park, a 100-plus-acre green space designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. In the 1960s and 70s, Cadwalader Park's 18 tennis courts (12 hard, six clay) were teeming with players and even hosted iconic champions such as Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson. However, subsequent decades brought economic downturns, social unrest and budget cuts to the local park departments. As a result, the public courts fell into disrepair and tennis participation slumped.

During these challenging times, however, a promising seed began to sprout: The National Junior Tennis League (NJTL) of Trenton. Formed in the summer of 1975 by four volunteers with a $500 budget, NJTL of Trenton offered three weeks of free tennis lessons to 30 neighborhood kids on the Cadwalader Park courts. By all accounts, it was a success. But, few could've imagined that this humble pilot program was destined for big things.

Flash-forward to today: Renamed the National Junior Tennis and Learning of Trenton to better reflect its diversified mission, NJTL of Trenton now provides more than 2,700 kids with a progressive curriculum that combines tennis and education. Participants are taught the importance of inclusion, responsibility and striving for academic excellence while enjoying topnotch tennis instruction. …

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