Tennis For America: An Opportunity to Change Lives

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Tennis for America

Tennis can change lives. National Service can change lives as well as changing a country for the better. John Bridgeland, a Harvard graduate, and a Harvard varsity tennis player, conceived of a national service program that he has called Tennis For America.

“In every generation, Americans who have undertaken national service – in military and civilian capacities – have emerged more connected to their generation and more invested in our country,” Bridgeland noted.

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association is the first national sport governing body to endorse national service through the creation of a program of service, and in the process mentor vulnerable youth, help them gain access to the sport and help strengthen the popularity of tennis.

The ITA in conjunction with CIVIC, a bipartisan ideas company, led by former Harvard tennis captain John Bridgeland, successfully applied for VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) funding from the U.S. government, which has been awarded. This funding provides successful applicants with a living allowance, a relocation stipend and an end-of-year service monetary award. The ITA will also be providing housing, a monthly travel stipend, an orientation at ITA headquarters in Tempe, Arizona, and a trip to the ITA Coaches Convention in Naples, Florida in December of 2020. 

“The AmeriCorps VISTA funding has allowed a grand idea to become a reality,” said Dave Mullins, ITA Managing Director of Community Engagement & Coach Empowerment. “VISTA has awarded funding for 12 positions that will be spread across the country in the inaugural year of Tennis for America, and we could not be more grateful to AmeriCorps for believing in the Tennis For America vision.” 

The pilot year will consist of placing one to three Tennis For America VISTA Fellows in five locations around the country: Compton, CA, College Park, MD, Nogales, AZ, Chicago, IL and the Bronx, NY. All five locations have been integral in fighting poverty through education and tennis in some of the lowest resourced areas in these cities. All of the tennis facilities are doing life-changing work.

The Tennis For America VISTA Fellows experience will look different at each location, but ultimately they are there to help build the capacity of each of the partner organizations. This could include developing social media campaigns and communication plans to help educate local families about the services being offered throughout the year. Other duties will include event management, volunteer recruiting and training, lesson planning and working towards establishing long-lasting mutually beneficial relationships between the organizations and local colleges.

Tennis For American Locations

Border Youth Tennis Exchange | Nogales, AZ

BYTE is the only United States Tennis Association’s National Junior Tennis & Learning chapter to operate internationally. The chapter educates children on the Nogales, AZ, and Nogales, Sonora Mexico side of the border. An emphasis is placed on using sport to bring communities together. Currently, BYTE operates at five sites across the Nogales community. Children are provided with two weekly sessions. Each session is split evenly between academic and athletic instruction. BYTE mentors focus on everything from STEM to digital storytelling to female empowerment. The program has changed the way the community sees the border and created relationships that cross it.

New York Junior Tennis & Learning | South Bronx, NY

NYJTL has been a force for change in the lives of New York youth for the past 49 years. As the largest non-profit youth tennis and education program, it serves 85,000 NYC youth. The program, started by Arthur Ashe and teammate Charlie Pasarell, provides tennis training for P.E. coaches in public schools, community tennis instruction, after school academic programs, and an intensive training program for kids who show promise in the sport.

Sloane Stephens Foundation | Compton, CA

The Sloane Stephens Foundation aims for youth to dream big and achieve their goals on and off the court. The foundation focuses on encouraging good nutrition and physical activity along with supporting the children academically. In addition to offering after-school instruction, they also provide college preparatory classes.

Junior Tennis Champions Center | College Park, MA

Founded in 1999, the JTCC is committed to developing the talents of youth in the College Park, Washington, D.C. area. Every student that has graduated from the Champions program has gone on to play tennis in college or professionally. In addition to developing the game, the center provides online curriculum and on-site teachers to make sure the student-athletes are prepared both on and off court.

XS Tennis | Chicago, IL

XS Tennis strives to provide Chicago’s underserved youth with a safe place to learn and grow in the sport of tennis. XS brings tennis into underserved schools, offers after-school and summer programs, and provides tennis instruction. XS Tennis has helped 47 of their students earn tennis scholarships. A few schools include: Harvard, the University of Chicago, and Georgia Tech.

Tenacity | Boston, MA

Tenacity was founded in 1999 in Boston and has served over 30,000 children. The program places an emphasis on tennis, literacy, and life skills. Tenacity is there to help Boston children navigate through the difficult transitional periods in their life. The program starts in elementary with an introduction to tennis, then continues on through middle and high school, and finally helps the student-athletes to transition to post-secondary pursuits, such as college.

Those interested in applying for a Tennis For America VISTA position should email Dave Mullins at dmullins@itatennis.com expressing interest in the program before applying at www.tennisforamerica.com. If you are a junior in college, but might be interested in joining the program in the summer of 2021 please share your contact details with Dave.

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