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Jacksonville, Tallahassee Awarded QuickStart Tennis Grants; Application Still Open

May 10, 2010 07:00 PM

Coach Yvo Niks of the Golden Eagle Country Club in
Tallahassee working with QuickStart students

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- May 11, 2010 --
Patrick Diegan of Jacksonville and Sandy Layne of Tallahassee are the two latest awardees of grants from the USTA Florida 'Share the Love' campaign, a $500,000 initiative to help fund tennis programs and projects throughout Florida communities during these challenging economic times.

The Share the Love campaign monies is an additional $500,000 on top of the funding that USTA Florida annually puts back into community projects and programs. USTA Florida annually directs 90% of member dollars back into the community to support tennis programs and projects throughout Florida.

Diegan, a teaching pro in Jacksonville who instructs out of the Burnett public park in the south Mandarin area, received $960 of QuickStart Tennis equipment to be used in programming at the facility. QuickStart Tennis is the new USTA format that utilizes smaller courts, low and slow-bounce balls, lighter and smaller racquets, lower nets, simplified scoring, and shorter matches to allow youngsters to advance quickly as they play in a fun, team environment with friends. Visit www.quickstarttennis.com to learn more.

"I became familiar with a similar type of format when I started coaching in England back in the eighties," said the British-born Diegan. "It was called Short Tennis back then. However, the concept of mini-courts, lower nets and softer balls with mini-rackets was very similar. The great thing is that tennis can become so much easier and much more age- and size-specific when organized like this. Definitely the size and surroundings of a standard-size court can be very intimidating for the very young and very small. It also means that kids can start rallying and playing points much sooner than if left to strictly traditional means. This is very important."

Diegan says QuickStart programs in public parks are key to attracting future U.S. champions that would otherwise go to other sports, and keeping tennis fun for young children. Jacksonville (USTA Florida Region 2) currently has the most QuickStart Tennis 10-and-under participation of any city or region in Florida.

"The next great American champions will not be discovered in county clubs," Diegan says. "There are thousands of kids in organized mini-baseball, football and soccer. When these kids start seeing something good going on at the tennis courts, which their fields commonly surround, the next great players might well just come on over. Any funding that can be put into the areas where the people are less well-off, willing to work harder, and are more hungry for some success is good common sense allocation of any available funds. Burnett Park has never seen any organized tennis, so it will be a big boost for anyone who wants to learn to play or get on a team."

Layne, the local league coordinator for QuickStart in Tallahassee, was awarded a QuickStart equipment grant for $426 to support tennis for 10-and-under children at the Golden Eagle Country Club.

"I am excited and grateful to receive a Share the Love grant from USTA Florida for our QuickStart Tennis League," Layne said. "Coach Yvo Niks attended our QuickStart Parents and Coaches Workshop in February and started the league in April 2010. We hoped for at least 12 kids to form the league, but 27 kids showed up the first session. With the enthusiasm shown by the parents and participants, and the support of Allen Long, head tennis professional at Golden Eagle, we know the grant will be an investment to help us reach even more kids, with appropriately-sized equipment and courts."

Funding priorities for the USTA Florida Share the Love initiative include QuickStart Tennis and Jr. Team Tennis (coordinator training, start-up, etc.), public facility funding (schools, parks, conversion to QuickStart courts, etc.), community tennis awareness (innovative pro-active start-ups, program expansion), school programs and senior tennis programs/projects.

Public tennis facilities have been some of the hardest hit by economic conditions that have seen cities cut back on parks and recreation funding, in addition to school districts dropping sports programs. Grant projects will be highlighted throughout the year and additional information and the grant application is available at www.USTASharetheLove.com.






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