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Florida 'The Model' as Volunteers and Organizations Lead 10 and Under Tennis Push

March 15, 2012 08:41 AM
'Share the Love' grants announced for 2012; McEnroe Points to System Growth

By Rick Vach, ustaflorida.com

mediawallsharethelovepeUSTA Florida has set its sights on getting as many kids involved in the game as possible through 10 and Under Tennis.

Part of the success of the movement has been through USTA Florida volunteers, the selfless individuals who give their time to grow the game of tennis through captaining junior teams or starting programs or just lending local teaching pros a hand.

That volunteer spirit to instill the love of the game in a new generation of kids in the Sunshine State has made the USTA national body take notice.

"You guys are the model," USTA national Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Gordon Smith told USTA Florida staff and volunteers last year. "Florida may be the most important place in the country for the future of American tennis. You have a tradition of fabulous volunteers. The key to the success is you work together in Florida, and you do it better than anywhere. If you put the two together, you are really leading the way."

In 2012 the USTA Florida Section is helping volunteers and organizations lead the way by extending the $500,000 "Share the Love" community tennis grant initiative that includes grants for equipment for individuals or organizations to start or expand 10 and Under Tennis programs.

Over the last two years the USTA Florida Section has distributed 252 grants totaling $542,501.87. The grants have touched virtually every tennis community from Tallahassee to the Florida Keys, including programs and projects such as tennis for deaf and blind children, 10 and Under Tennis programs and blended lines, court construction, renovation and repair, child foster care programs, wheelchair tennis, senior tennis and more. Organizations granted include YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, college club tennis programs, K-12 school districts, individual school Kids Tennis Clubs, and home-school programs just to name a few.

"The forward-thinking decision by the USTA Florida Board of Directors to use some of our financial reserves to assist programs and communities in need has been so well received," says USTA Florida Director of Community Tennis Linda Curtis. "These grants are making real differences in communities to start new programs or support existing programs for children and adults of all ages and abilities."

In 2010 USTA Florida launched the $500,000 Share the Love grant initiative to help fund tennis programs and projects throughout Florida communities during challenging economic times. Share the Love is an outreach initiative to help ensure current and future generations will play the lifetime sport of tennis.

"The USTA wants more people on more courts in more places; that is our charge as an association," said Patrick McEnroe, the USTA's national general manager for player development. "Tennis is indeed a sport that grows upward from its grass roots, and by making the sport easier for kids to play and enjoy, they're much more likely to get involved in it and stick to it. That's exactly the idea behind 10 and Under Tennis, and for any sport, that's step one."

In the few years since the USTA rolled out the 10 and Under Tennis initiative, McEnroe says the growth in the U.S.'s junior base of players is already starting to show.

"Two years ago, fewer than 10,000 kids were involved in tournament play and in the USTA's Jr. Team Tennis program," McEnroe said. "Now, that number has risen to more than 32,000. We've still got a long way to go, admittedly. We've only begun to scratch the surface of our potential."

USTA Florida's "Share the Love" grant initiative looks forward to granting the equipment to start hundreds more 10 and Under Tennis programs throughout the state in 2012.

"This is also part of the USTA's goal to support First Lady Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move!' campaign to encourage children in the community and schools to get active and lead healthy lifestyles through tennis," Curtis says.

To be eligible for a USTA Florida Share the Love program grant in 2012, organizations must: be a current USTA member in good standing; meet a compelling need in the community; in the instance of 10 and Under Tennis grants, verify that 10 and Under Tennis (TAUT) staff are TAUT trained before receiving granted equipment; and practice and provide services without discrimination as protected by law.

Grant application assistance is available. For full eligibility guidelines, a list of all 2010-2011 Share the Love grant recipients in Florida, and the Share the Love grant application link, go to:
http://www.florida.usta.com/grants/share_the_love/.

 
 

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