| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition lauded the USTA during Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play (WWDOP) this past Saturday, Sept. 24th, for its leadership and participation in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) challenge. The USTA, through its National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) network and youth tennis programs, has gotten more than 226,000 kids to participate in and complete the PALA challenge.

To date, the USTA has had more kids complete the challenge than any other youth sports organization in the United States. The association’s New York NJTL chapter, New York Junior Tennis League, accounted for 75,000 of the participants in the challenge.

“The President Active Lifestyle Award is about getting kids and parents to understand how easy it is to have some fun, but also to be fit. It is really aimed at ending childhood obesity in our generation,” said Secretary Sebelius. “Our goal was to have a million PALA challenges met by this year, and we are really pleased to say we have almost 1.7 million, thanks to great partners and great organizations. It’s a great partnership to have the tennis association involved.”

The USTA participated in WWDOP by featuring its SmashZone, a kid-friendly interactive tennis area that includes four kid-sized courts for youth play. SmashZone allows young people to try their skills on any of the 10 and Under Tennis Courts. Thousands of children were introduced to 10-and-Under Tennis, which is geared towards getting more kids to play by using modified equipment and courts tailored to a child’s size. By featuring shorter and lighter racquets, slower-bouncing balls, smaller courts and simplified scoring, children learn to play more quickly and easily while having more fun in the process.

The fun quotient at the SmashZone at WWDOP increased when NBA superstars Lebron James and Chris Paul; Victoria Justice, star of Nickelodeon’s Victorious; Reverend Al Sharpton; and music producer and entertainer Master P along with his daughter, Cymphonique, star of Nickelodeon’s upcoming live-action series How to Rock, stopped by to hit around with the kids and to tell them that they are better able to lead a healthy and positive lifestyle through physical activity.

In addition to its partnership with Nickelodeon to promote healthier lifestyles for children, the USTA is also working with the White House and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign to help accomplish this goal. Earlier this month, the First Lady visited the U.S. Open to thank children from the USTA’s New York Junior Tennis League (NYJTL) and the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program chapters for completing the PALA challenge. During the US Open the children played tennis with Mrs. Obama, showcased their athletic skills and watched with her some tennis action in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“The NYJTL is proud to work in conjunction with the USTA and the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. Having everyone from the NYJTL involved in the PALA challenge took lots of effort, but the outcome was well worth it,” said Deborah MacFarlane-Antoine, NYJTL President and CEO. “Seeing the images of these young people playing and watching tennis with the First Lady is really gratifying. The experience has reinforced our message to them that the can achieve and succeed in life.”

The PALA award recognizes kids who stay active for 60 minutes per day, five days a week for six out of eight weeks. PALA’s national goal is to get one million youngsters to take this challenge.




U.S. Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius and President's Council on Fitness present a certificate to USTA's Barry Ford




Rev. Al Sharpton at SmashZone during Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play




U.S. Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius presents certificates to some deserving children