Hello and welcome to my blog post! My name is Maria and I’m the 2022/23 Tennis for America fellow at JTCC (Junior Tennis Champions Center) in College Park, Maryland. I hope this entry will be of interest to our Tennis 4 America supporters and friends.
I began my AmeriCorps year of service at JTCC in August of 2022. Also in August of 2022, a team of economists published a study entitled “Social capital I: measurement and associations with economic mobility.” I did not read the entire 14 pages of that illustrious work. I did however read the NPR summary, which is helpfully succinct:
“In a pair of groundbreaking studies, Harvard economist Raj Chetty and a team of researchers find that cross-class friendships are a significant key to upward mobility in America. They call it economic connectedness. We call it your rich friends matter.”
Back to tennis, I’m going to quote some original material from a recent grant application I worked on: “Access to the sport of tennis is far from equal, especially from the financial perspective. When asked about the primary reason for not participating in sports, higher-income families cite lack of time, while lower-income families cite expense. For tennis specifically, the costs of court time, club membership, lessons, tournament registration, and equipment can quickly become prohibitive.” Much as I (and probably most of you) love and value the sport, it is often correctly portrayed as an exclusive, elitist community, composed of mostly white, mostly rich, and mostly privileged individuals and families.
But according to Chatty and friends, this defect is what makes the Tennis 4 America fellowship and the programs we are staffed at so impactful: we introduce low-SES students to a highly prosperous economic community, composed mostly of high-SES individuals. If we are successful in creating inclusive tennis spaces and providing financial and social support systems, our low-SES students have the opportunity to form cross-socioeconomic friendships and ‘connectedness’ through the sport of tennis. And these connections will be some of the most consequential factors in our students’ future economic success and to an extent, their overall health and happiness.
Speaking of friendship, I included a picture of me and my new friends who all happen to work at JTCC, are Tennis 4 America alumni and are some of the smartest, kindest, most talented people I know. Left to right: Gabby(2021), Ava(2021), Maria(2023), Ginger(2022)
If you’re in the DC metro area, come check out the JTCC facility and Community Impact program. Shameless plug: we’re always looking for volunteers!
Additionally, here is a nice, interactive website where you can learn more about economic connectedness in your community.