Since 2019, the unique tournament series has promoted the importance of youth mental health
  | By Press Release


The ProtoStar Foundation announced today the return of the Matt Stevenson Junior Tennis Tournament (NY) to Flushing Meadows, NY, right after the U.S. Open. This Tournament is unique in that it is the first and only junior tennis tournament in the country to promote the importance of youth mental health as part of the event. New this year are materials on Sport Psychology.

Inaugurated in 2019, the Matt Stevenson Tournament came to New York last September during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The Tournament aims to address the national teen depression, anxiety, and suicide crisis by engaging adolescents through a sport they love and promoting dialogue and understanding of mental health issues. 207 junior players competed in this New York event last year.

Click Here to see more photos from the 2021 Matt Stevenson Tournament

Youth Mental Health Crisis

Youth mental health challenges was already a national crisis pre-pandemic, and the pandemic only exacerbated that crisis. Adding to their struggles, some competitive tennis players feel pressure to win, experience performance anxiety, and end up with depressive symptoms after losing a match. More touring professionals are finally talking about their mental health issues, which may include suicidal ideation. Sport psychologists are now part of the tour to help them deal with their struggles both on and off the tennis court.

The Matt Stevenson Junior Tennis Tournament brings this awareness about mental health issues to the junior level. On top of competitive pressures, junior tennis players may be especially vulnerable because they are still dealing with the general ups and downs of adolescence. Seeking admission to a Division I school or a tennis scholarship could add to the pressures they already face.

As in previous years, the Tournament will distribute age-appropriate information about depression, anxiety, and suicide prevention provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and materials available from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The mission is to help adolescents understand the many aspects of mental health, including what it means to be mentally healthy and how to take care of their mental health. There will be practical information for the junior players on what signs to look for and where to get help. Parents and coaches can also sign up for workshops conducted by AFSP.

New Sport Psychology Materials

New this year are educational materials on Sport Psychology, including tips, techniques, and self-guided workbook exercises on how juniors can optimize their mental focus, deal with performance anxiety, and gain a mental edge. The materials were specially prepared for the Tournament by a team of experts and reviewed by Dr. Edson Filho, professor of Sport Psychology at Boston University, and Dr. Hayley Perelman, a licensed clinical psychologist/sport psychologist. The focus is on issues that are unique to tennis players and young athletes.

“I am pleased to take part in this important initiative to provide valuable resources for adolescents on mental health both on and off the tennis court,” said Dr. Filho. “Being better informed will help teens navigate any mental health challenges that may arise,” added Dr. Perelman.

Among the materials are workbook exercises that the junior players can do on their own or with an adult to help them with such issues as: (1) identifying how they want to feel in a match; (2) focusing on what they can control during a match; and (3) knowing their support network. Perfectionism, eating disorders, and body image issues in sports are also addressed. Additional materials are available for parents and coaches on how to support their players, such as:

(1) Primer on Tennis, Sport Psychology, and Mental Health

(2) Suggested Areas for Further Exploration

(3) Parent’s Guide to Supporting Athletes During College Recruiting

Team members include Nick Lee, Masters student in counseling, Rachel McMahon and Annie Christman of Galea Health, and Tom Smalley, a certified strength and conditioning coach. They will be at the Tournament to answer any questions. The materials distributed are for educational purposes only and do not constitute advice, therapy, or counseling.

Interconnection Between Mental Performance and Mental Health

The Tournament’s goal is to help junior players understand the interconnection between mental performance on the tennis court and mental health off the tennis court. Naomi Osaka had to withdraw from the 2021 French Open because she was suffering from “long bouts of depression.” Mardy Fish could not face Roger Federer in the 2012 U.S. Open because he was paralyzed by “severe anxiety disorder.”

“Mental health challenges are difficult issues to talk about, but they must be addressed,” said Gary P. Poon, President and Founder of ProtoStar Foundation. “Talking can save lives – the more comfortable adolescents become in discussing mental health issues, the more likely they will seek help when they need it.”

Rob Polishook, a mental training coach and author of numerous publications, said, “Sport is what athletes do, not who they are. The tennis player is a whole human athlete – person first. What happens off the court impacts what happens on it. Players must prioritize mental health in order to be their best both on and off the court.” Mr. Polishook is donating ten autographed copies of his book Tennis Inside the Zone—32 Mental Training Workouts for Champions, which will be given away in a random drawing at the Tournament.

Sanctioned by USTA Eastern

Because of its popularity last year, the Tournament (L6) will be held over two weekends on September 17-19, 2022 (14u and 18u) and September 24-26, 2022 (12u and 16u). It is sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), Eastern Section. Players can register for the Tournament on USTA’s tournament website by searching for “Matt Stevenson.” A link to the Tournament is also on ProtoStar's website.

About Matt Stevenson

The inspiration behind the Tournament came from the late Matt Stevenson, a young, generous, and passionate tennis professional who ran successful junior tennis programs in the Washington, D.C. area. Before tragically taking his own life in 2017 at the age of 32, he had written extensively about his own mental health issues and had asked that kids be made aware of the importance of mental health and to seek help if needed. This Tournament seeks to turn a tragedy into something positive. All proceeds from the Tournament will benefit the Matt Stevenson Junior Tennis Fund, which supports junior tennis programs and promising junior players needing financial aid. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to AFSP, Flushing Meadow’s junior tennis programs, and the Junior Tennis Foundation, a NY-based nonprofit organization that supports tennis programs for underserved youth and people with disabilities.

About ProtoStar Foundation

The sponsor and organizer of the Tournament is the ProtoStar Foundation, a California nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in San Diego. It is part of the ProtoStar Group, a set of pioneering companies that find resourceful ways to fund, develop, or incubate innovative projects and organizations that have a unique, compelling, and impactful social mission.