It seems that every aspect of our society was affected by the pandemic and one that received considerable attention and debate was regarding children and teachers returning to the classroom. I no longer have a school-age child but can remember the days of juggling my work schedule with her school schedule. As a lawyer, I had been known to walk into a deposition with “a baby on my hip.”
USTA Florida has a vested interest in introducing the game of tennis in the schools. Through the leadership of Danielle Gooding, the Director of Community Tennis, her team of TSRs (Tennis Service Representatives), and volunteers we were able to maintain a solid partnership with the schools throughout our state during the COVID shutdown.
During the months when USTA Florida was unable to meet face-to-face with administrators and PE teachers, the TSRs and staff in the office kept the lines of communication open virtually. It was important the schools did not feel “abandoned” after the organization had been introducing ways to teach the sport to new players at the school. It was also important for our organization to understand what the 2020-2021 needs were for the schools. In talking with teachers, it became apparent that another virtual class was not of interest. However, during that time, we were able to provide information to the teachers about programs that would provide physical activity for the students.
Because of the dedication of the staff and volunteers to keep the partnership with the schools ongoing during the pandemic, we are now in a good position to re-educate our school providers as to how to run a tennis PE program and make it a part of their ongoing curriculum.
In working with the schools, it is our goal to show anyone that you do not have to be a professional to introduce the game of tennis to children. Through Net Generation, a curriculum is available that is being used nationwide to outline a six-week program of progression to introduce the game to children who may not have another opportunity outside of what they are exposed to at school. That is such an important part of this program. Also the equipment necessary to implement the program can be provided at no cost to the school when certain criteria is met. The children progress to different levels to a point where they could be involved in a team challenge with players within the school or even have different school(s) challenges.
For now, we are told schools will be fully reopened in Fall 2021, and USTA Florida is making efforts to re-introduce the curriculum to the schools this summer. The beauty of introducing the game in schools is that this can occur in a school’s gym, parking lot, or basketball court. You do not have to have a tennis court!
Our goal is to introduce the students to a game that is COVID safe, no impact, and can be played with friends, siblings, parents, and even grandparents. I first started hitting with my mother and was eventually able to progress to a Saturday morning match with my dad. I met some of my closest friends through the game, and this is what we want to share in the schools. My daughter had the opportunity to play for her middle school and high school which was a great way to introduce the “team” environment and camaraderie.
We say that our goals are to grow the game and to share the game with everyone. I see partnering with our schools as a perfect “match” to achieve these goals. I hope we get an A+!
Written by Dana Andrews, USTA Florida President