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Bringing Tennis to Where the Kids Are

December 11, 2007 05:00 PM

The USTA Florida Section has taken to heart USTA President Jane Brown Grimes’ call to “bring tennis to where the kids are.”  In the organization’s pursuit to introduce tennis in at least one school in each of Florida’s 67 counties, it has developed a little secret to helping its success: Thinking Big.

Thinking Big is what many regions in particular have done lately, focusing on whole school districts to get involved with the USTA School Initiative, rather than approaching individual schools and teachers one by one.  Through communication with statewide school decision makers such as school superintendants, district/county PE curriculum specialists, and directors of PE programs, the USTA School Initiative in the state of Florida has grown exponentially; especially in elementary schools.

The section’s success is due, in part, to a “School Summit” workshop held the last two years. “The idea was to have a one-or two-day workshop to invite school administrators to learn about the USTA School Tennis initiative, and to go through an in-service training,” says Andy McFarland, the Florida Section’s associate executive director for community tennis.  Assisting these newly trained school tennis specialists every step of the way are USTA Florida's eight wonderful Community Coordinators.

Cheryl Rivera, USTA Florida region 8 community coordinator says, “The boom, in my opinion, is because of the curriculum specialists and school superintendents getting the personal experience of attending the school summit and bringing it back to their PE teachers saying, ‘Hey, you need to get on board!’”

It also doesn’t hurt that Gov. Crist signed a bill in May that required 150 minutes of PE a week for students in kindergarten through fifth grade and signed a proclamation declaring May as Tennis in Florida Schools Month.  The USTA has simply made it easier for teachers to teach the game of tennis.  Age-appropriate equipment, DVD video footage on in-service trainings and a curriculum kit that includes tennis lesson plans, a school tennis notebook pocket guide, and an informational CD ROM and DVD have all helped increase participation and excitement about getting tennis in schools.

John MacDonald, USTA Florida school tennis coordinator, has put his heart and soul into the program for the past two years, working 10-14 hour days to support this initiative.  Following his lead are USTA Florida’s Community Coordinators (CC’s) and two Regional School Tennis Organizers, who represent most regions in the state of Florida.  Together, they have been working closely with school professionals to build lasting relationships and bring tennis to the forefront of physical education and before and after school programs.  Here are just a few of their accomplishments in 2007:

• 92 SACC (School Age Child Care) programs in the School District of Palm Beach County (SDPBC) have joined the USTA Florida School Tennis Initiative and become USTA organizational members. The SDPBC has made tennis their official wellness activity for the SACC programs throughout the district.  Each School-Age Child Care program (92) will incorporate tennis into their Nutrition and Wellness Initiative and have agreed to provide a minimum of 8 sessions throughout the school year. So far 146 directors and SACC counselors have been trained.

• 250 PE teachers in Hillsborough County, representing more than 125 schools, were trained in the USTA schools curriculum in 2006.  During the 2006/2007 school year, nearly 60 schools signed on.  Twenty five additional schools in Hillsborough County have begun to implement tennis into the 2007/2008 school year.  Plus, 15 more schools are expected to join in by the end of 2008.

• Collier County had a district-wide buy in to the USTA School Tennis Initiative.  Every middle and elementary public school in the county are now USTA Florida organization members.  38 schools in all will have helped introduce tennis to over 200,000 children.

• 50 Volusia County teachers, representing 28 schools, have been trained as school tennis specialists.  98 schools in Brevard County and 78 schools in Volusia County have the potential to incorporate 150 minutes of PE, including tennis, into their  week.

• 30 middle schools out of 61 in Miami Dade County have committed to include tennis as part of their in-school PE program; approximately 16,500 children in the county are now being introduced to tennis.

• Broward County had their first ever In-School In-Service for PE teachers.  29 teachers representing 22 schools attended and were trained as school tennis specialists.  Out of 22 schools that attended, 15 schools became new organization members and 7 renewed memberships.  1800 children in one particular school now have the opportunity to play tennis.

• The PE Wellness Supervisor of Bay County agreed to fund membership for 20 schools to do the USTA PE 1 program (teach one more tennis program in addition to the PE program).

• Lee County has 18 schools who currently teach tennis as part of their PE programs.

• About 15 schools in Hernando County and Polk County have embraced the USTA School Tennis Initiative.

• 14 schools in Indian River County have joined the USTA Florida School Tennis Initiative and become organizational members of the USTA.   

USTA Florida has continued to make strides toward accomplishing its goal to bring tennis into children’s lives.  The goal is more than a number, but rather a vision for the future of tennis.  If kids have a great experience early in school, it is only natural that they will progress into and enjoy other USTA programs like USTA Jr. Team Tennis and USTA League Tennis, both team-oriented recreational programs.  

“Bringing tennis to where the kids are”, as USTA President Jane Brown Grimes says, is key to maintaining future participation in the lifetime sport of tennis.







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