| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff

More than 150 kids got a chance to enjoy tennis and a good workout at Howard Bennett Playground in Harlem, as P.S. 197M and Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program (HJTEP) hosted a USTA Free Tennis Play Day in celebration of Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play. The event was one of thousands of USTA Free Tennis Play Days being held in celebration of Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play throughout the country in an effort to get kids active and involved in tennis during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in September. USTA Free Tennis Play Days provide kids and parents of all skill levels with the opportunity to experience tennis in a social and fun setting.

“It gave them an opportunity to get some exercise and experience a sport that they haven’t played before,” said Dante Brown, program director for HJTEP. “They were very excited, very energetic, and didn’t want to stop.”

The event was just one of the ways that P.S. 197M is bringing tennis to kids. This year, the school added the USTA’s National Junior Tennis and Learning network’s ACE Curriculum. The curriculum, which stands for Academic Creative Engagement, provides a combination of academic enrichment in the areas of math, literacy and nutrition, and fitness through tennis instruction.

Natasha Spann, principal of P.S. 197M, said the USTA Free Tennis Play Day also helped the students broaden their horizons.

“They always play basketball and baseball, but tennis is something that they never get the opportunity to experience,” said Spann. “So we wanted to give them that chance to participate.”

USTA Eastern also participated in the event, providing prizes for the children and information for parents about local tennis programs. While the event focused on kids, tennis is a sport that players of all ages and abilities can enjoy, said Michelle Blake Wilson, Managing Director of Marketing and Communications for USTA Eastern.

“Tennis is the ideal sport for families,” said Blake Wilson. “Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned veteran, you get to exercise, compete, and have fun, playing the sport of the lifetime.”