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Inaugural Middle School Tennis League

April 7, 2009 10:15 AM
By: Tori Townsend


Ten Schools, One County, 90 Players

Beginning April 15, approximately 90 middle school students representing 10 schools in Volusia County will merge at the Florida Tennis Center, home of USTA Florida, in Daytona Beach to compete in the first match of the inaugural USTA Jr. Team Tennis middle school league. The six-week pilot season will offer one of the only organized middle school team sports in Volusia County public schools. The program has attracted both public and private schools and gives kids an opportunity to play a team sport in an affordable, organized league at a time when Florida public school funding with both athletic and academic extracurricular activities are expected to be cut by $21 million in the coming year.

“We are thrilled to death to see the middle school tennis league come to life after two years in the making,” said Linda Curtis, director of community tennis, USTA Florida. “Community members have done an amazing job in laying the groundwork so that these kids can have fun in what we see to be a pilot program for the entire state.”

For the first time in many years, Volusia County students will have the opportunity to represent their middle school in a team competition. The USTA Jr. Team Tennis middle school league is open to players of all ability levels and will provide a healthy, positive no-cut athletic experience for students in the county. As a participant, each student becomes a member of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and receives a Nike Dri-FIT team t-shirt, hat and gets to enjoy an end-of-season party on May 20.

“The best part about this is being able to offer a program when programs are being cut at the school level,” said Molly Zimmer, USTA Florida tennis program coordinator, Space Coast. “Locally, we are going to have more kids playing tennis which is important for children not only in Volusia County, but across the state because we need to keep them active, out of trouble and involved in fun activities.”

Deland Middle, Hinson Middle, Ormond Beach Middle, Silver Sands Middle, Creekside Middle, New Smyrna Beach Middle, River Springs Middle, St. James Episcopal, St. Barnabas Episcopal and St. Brendan Catholic are among the participating schools. Led by local USPTA and PTR teaching professionals, parents and college students, practices will take place once a week on-site at each school’s tennis courts with matches scheduled every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. at the centrally located 24-court Florida Tennis Center.

“We have taken the burden off the schools by packaging a quality USTA program that can easily be offered to the students,” Zimmer said. “Because of the convenience of on campus programming, the pilot league is expected to attract a more diverse demographic who may not otherwise have an opportunity to pursue tennis.”

Presented by USTA Florida and The Greater Volusia Network Tennis Association (a local Community Tennis Association), the team based tennis program has been met with enthusiastic support from key school leaders in the community including Dr. Margaret A. Smith, Volusia County Schools superintendent, Tim Huth, Volusia County Schools deputy superintendent and Bill Poniatowksi, program specialist, physical education, health, driver traffic safety and athletics. Currently, $4,000 has been raised to support the USTA Jr. Team Tennis middle school league by donations from Volusia County business partners and families, plus a recreational grant awarded by the USTA.

With an already national award winning USTA Jr. Team Tennis program in the county, led by Rita Gladstone of Port Orange, the program is a feeder to county high school tennis and local USTA Florida junior competitive programs. The new middle school tennis league is a progressive approach to retaining athletic programs in tough economic times and aims to become a yearly staple in middle school athletics locally and throughout the state.

For more information about the USTA Jr. Team Tennis middle school league, contact Rita Gladstone at (386) 299-6551 or rita@ritatennis.com.






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