Tuesday, July 26, 2011

USTA invests $1.3 million in tennis program for youngsters

The United States Tennis Association has expanded its efforts to get more kids playing tennis.

Last week it announced a $1.3 million investment to help introduce 10 and Under Tennis in 26 communities across the country. Each community will receive $50,000 grants over a three-year-period to build new courts, adapt current ones and create programming in schools, parks and other areas.

The program, 10 and Under Tennis, provides young players a chance to play a scaled-down style of the game, and the USTA aims to bring it to more than 100 American markets during the next five years.

"Imagine if an 8-year-old tried to play baseball on the same sized field and with the same distance from the pitching mound to home plate as the New York Yankees play," said Kurt Kamperman, the USTA's chief executive of community tennis. "Unlike other sports, we've been forcing young kids to play by the same rules as the pro stars, and it really isn't conducive to getting them in the sport."That's where 10 and Under Tennis differs. It's played on a smaller court with lighter racquets and slower balls.

Earlier this month, the USTA announced it will offer free USTA junior memberships to children ages 10 and under. On Wednesday, it announced that Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf would partner with the USTA and will be featured in an upcoming advertising campaign promoting 10 and Under Tennis.

Kamperman said 10 and Under Tennis has already seen good results.

Said USTA Chairman of the Board and President Jon Vegosen: "The scaled-to-size equipment and smaller playing area allows kids to rally and play the kid early on increasing the likelihood that they'll have success and return to the court and continue to have fun."