| By Michael Sarro

Pictured above (front row, left to right): Emily Steinberg, R.A.L.L.Y.: Racquet and Literacy League for Youth, 2010 NJTL of the Year; Dr. Deborah MacFarlane-Antoine, NYJTL, 2010 NJTL of the Year; Sandy Martin, Saint Paul Urban Tennis, 2010 NJTL of the Year; Bob Bratcher, 2010 Eve Kraft Community Service Award; Brenda Gilmore, 2010 Eve Kraft Community Service Award. (back row, l to r) Becki Steinberg, R.A.L.L.Y.: Racquet and Literacy League for Youth, 2010 NJTL of the Year; Jim O’Neil, NYJTL, 2010 NJTL of the Year; Lewis “Skip” Hartman, NYJTL, 2010 NJTL of the Year; Jon Vegosen, USTA Chairman of the Board and President; Gordon Smith, USTA Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director; Julie Watson Dick, 2010 Janet Louer USTA Jr. Team Tennis Organizer of the Year Award; Jim Holt, 2010 Adaptive Tennis Community Service Award; Eleni Rossides, Executive Director, Washington Tennis and Education Foundation, 2010 CTA of the Year

 

Once a year, the USTA nationally recognizes all those who promote and grow the sport of tennis by holding the Community Tennis Development Workshop (CTDW). For three days, the tennis community is brought together to learn, teach, inspire and honor people who work so hard for a sport that they love. The annual gathering has become one of the most important that the USTA holds as it brings together Community Tennis Associations (CTAs) and National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) programs from all across the country.

In 2011, the workshop was held in Washington, D.C. and focused on the growth of 10 & Under Tennis, the newest initiative launched by the USTA. Attendees are offered an array of classes and workshops dealing with tennis programming, marketing and communications, facilities and advocacy and many more.

Along with providing these educational seminars, the USTA uses this opportunity to acknowledge the most outstanding community tennis programs in the country. This year, the New York Junior Tennis League was recognized for their hard work and dedication to growing the sport of tennis by winning the NJTL of the Year Award after many years of providing free tennis programming, as well as after school tutoring programs. The USTA invited New York Tennis Magazine to attend the gala and highlight the NJTL of the Year Award recipient, the NYJTL.

Over the last few years, the development of youth tennis has been one of the main focuses of the USTA. According to USTA statistics, tennis has about 20,000 youth players in the 10 & Under age group, while soccer has approximately two million players in the same age group. Much has been done to modify the game in order to make it easier and more enjoyable for younger players with the development of the QuickStart Method and now most recently with the addition of 10-and-Under Tennis. The 10 & Under Tennis program is a competitive style of play involving the QuickStart method which uses smaller courts and racquets, as well as bigger foam balls to slow down the game for young beginners. The overall theme of this year’s CTDW was how to implement it into programs.

The overall buzz at the workshop was that this new initiative is great for the overall sport but especially great for kids in the hopes of gaining and retaining players.

“Other sports have had modified versions of their game so kids could play for years,” said USTA Chairman of the Board and President Jon Vegosen. “It may have taken us a while, but with the addition of 10 & Under Tennis, we can now say that tennis has joined the ranks of other youth sports.”

Many of the classes and seminars were devoted to 10 & Under Tennis in order to educate pros and organizations on the specifics of the program since it is fairly new. In addition to the educational aspect of the workshop, several people and programs received awards for their dedication to growing the sport.

Among the select few of recipients, the New York Junior Tennis League (NYJTL), located in Manhattan, was fortunate enough to receive the NJTL of the Year Award. The NYJTL is the largest tennis and education-themed community organization in the United States and offers comprehensive school and community-based programs throughout New York City’s five boroughs. They serve over 100,000 youths ranging from ages 6-18 and provide free tennis for all participants. The NYJTL was founded by Arthur Ashe and Lewis “Skip” Hartman in 1971 and for 40 years, the New York Junior Tennis League has provided the joys of tennis and education to underserved children.

By participating with the NYJTL, children are provided the necessary tools to excel on and off the tennis court through the sport of tennis. An example of this can be seen by their many after school tutor classes and college prep courses. This was best summed up by President and Chief Executive Officer Deborah MacFarlane Antoine who said, “Our kids become better people because of tennis.” The NYJTL has been providing its services for 40 years now and is a great role model for other NJTLs.

Upon receiving the award for NJTL of the year, founder Skip Hartman thanked a countless number of NYJTL employees for their years of dedication and hard work. Hartman went on to say, “Other than my family, nothing has been more life fulfilling than working with the NYJTL.” Skip also mentioned how his programs would not be what they would be if not for devoted volunteers who help in any way they can. This was very well-received as many people in the audience were in fact volunteers and not paid for their efforts towards growing the sport. In closing, Skip stated, “If savvy committed volunteers tackle the important problems that face their communities, then they can be very successful.”

Skip’s concluding remarks echoed through the room as the weekend was a way to say thank you to everyone for all their contributions and that with a little hard work, anyone can make a difference. In one way or another, everyone who attended the workshop had made strides to grow the sport of tennis. Tennis needs these dedicated individuals to promote and grow the sport and they are doing just that. This is evident by the 5,000 or so people who attended the workshop and are doing so much for the sport that we all love.

In 2012, the USTA Community Tennis Development Workshop will be held in New Orleans from Jan. 13-15. For the first time ever, it will feature a special session on the new CTA Health Check system which is a way for CTA’s to asses themselves. It is a self-evaluation process where they try to assess their strengths and weaknesses, identify areas that need improvement, and also find resources that can help in planning and implementing strategic goals which is the ultimate goal of the workshop to begin with. The CTA Health Check evaluates four main areas of a CTA: Structure, Planning, Programming and Communications. All are very valuable to the amount of success any CTA will have. This is all part of the process to make the USTA more accessible to the grassroots programs of America. CTAs and NJTLs are the backbone of the sport and the USTA is making strides to improve the tennis game on a local level.