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School’s Out, but Tennis is In

May 22, 2007 09:19 AM

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While many kids and teachers are counting down the last days of school before summer is in full swing, the U.S. Tennis Association, Florida section is counting how many Miami-Dade County schools now have tennis as a part of their after school schedule.  In the fourth largest school district in Florida, with 280 schools, and the largest minority public school district in the county, tennis has been left out of students’ lives for far too long; that is, until now.

The America Heart Association states, “Playing tennis is an excellent way to engage kids in regular physical activity to help them live longer, healthier lives.”  Thanks to the efforts of the USTA, over 5,000 kids now have the opportunity to play tennis after school in Miami.  The USTA picked Miami-Dade County as one of three Florida markets to receive grant money to implement tennis in their after school curriculum.  A total of 121 schools currently participate in the Miami-Dade County Public School After School Program, which launched in January, 2007.   The USTA, Florida section is dedicating its time, resources and money to get tennis in at least two-thirds of the schools in Miami-Dade County.  Presently, 24 schools offer tennis as part of their after school curriculum.

“The best part about all of this,” said Cathy Nordlund, USTA Florida South Region 8 Community Coordinator, “is that the USTA is bringing tennis to these children and giving them the opportunity to play another sport, be active and have fun!”

To date, the section has bought over $10,000 worth of equipment which is essential to the success of the after school tennis programs.  704 racquets (23”, 25”, and 27”), 46 mini tennis nets (10’ and 16.5’), and 750 foam balls have been divided among the 24 participating schools.  USTA National Trainers Dede Allen and Chuck Hormann conducted a Recreational Coaches Workshop in January of this year for 65 after school staff, providing teachers with useful coaching tools and basic tennis drills to use in their after school tennis program. 

Another workshop is already scheduled for 35 more schools in the fall, and these schools will also receive equipment once their training is complete.

“We have been trying to get tennis to these kids for quite awhile,” said John MacDonald, USTA Florida Schools Coordinator.  “Following Governor Charlie Crist’s proclamation that May is School Tennis Month in Florida, it is great that this new partnership has been founded between Miami-Dade County public schools and the U.S. Tennis Association.”  

Getting tennis to all these children can only be accomplished with the help of dedicated school staff and a community willing to accept tennis.  USTA School Mentor, Susan Ricke, makes sure that the community is up for the challenge.  Susan visits each after school site to assist them with all of their needs and answer any questions they may have.   USTA Florida School Tennis Organizer, Maria Bandklayder, is also instrumental in making sure that the after school tennis programs have what they need.  Maria helps coordinate trainings, organizes equipment needs, and maintains communication with each school program manager.

“The USTA is giving a lot to the community of Miami-Dade County,” explained Cathy.  “Last year, the Florida section spent about $1.5 million towards recreation and community tennis throughout the state of Florida with a goal of maximizing sport participation.  Now in Miami-Dade County, school aged children have this opportunity as well.”

The USTA helps kids learn not just the sport of tennis, but self-confidence, sportsmanship, and the habits of an active, healthy lifestyle.  To get your kids involved in an after school or in school tennis program, please contact Cathy Nordlund at 305-252-6591 or Nordlund@florida.usta.com

 

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