Earlier this fall, the Flushing Meadows Corona Park courts played host to a special kind of junior tennis tournament, the Matt Stevenson Junior Tennis Tournament. This unique event used the platform of competition to raise awareness on the importance of mental health.
“The premise of the tournament is to provide the kids with mental health information, and promote the importance of mental health,” said Gary Poon, who runs the ProtoStar Foundation, the organization that sponsors and organizes the Matt Stevenson Junior Tennis Tournament. “We call it the Power of Mental Health. It began in 2019, and while we weren’t able to hold it in 2020 due to the pandemic, we resumed this year with a series of events.”
The Series began in San Diego with more than 170 kids in the event, and then arrived in New York where more than 200 players took part. The final stop is in Washington, D.C., where players compete on the Stadium Court used by the Citi Open professional tennis tournament.
In addition to the competition on court, the Matt Stevenson Junior Tennis Tournament, the only USTA-sanctioned tournament that provides information on mental health, helps kids understand the importance of focusing on their own mental health.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention were part of the event, and provided players, parents and coaches valuable information on where they can look for help.
“Mental health issues is something that affects all of us, at different levels. If you’re feeling alone, depressed, anxious, we want these kids to know that they are not alone,” explained Poon. “They can find somebody to talk to. We have the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention here to provide that information. We want to tell these kids that there is help available. The big takeaway we want for the kids is for them to know there is help out there, and it’s ok to talk about these issues and what they are feeling. Whether it is on the tennis court, in the locker room or at the kitchen table, there is help out there.”
In the future, the Series plans to put on events in more cities across the United States as it aims to continue removing the stigma associated with mental health, and help kids understand they are not alone when dealing with issues.
“Mental health is a national issue,” added Poon. “We hope to expand into more cities, and continue helping as many young people as we can.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org