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Posts Tagged ‘Golden Gate Park’

PostHeaderIcon A Little Drizzle A Lot of Fun at NJTL Regional Rally

NJTL Regional Rally at Golden Gate Park

NJTL Regional Rally at Golden Gate Park

Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day is a high-profile example of the USTA’s efforts to encourage kids of all ages/levels to play and enjoy the game of tennis. But if the trip to NYC is out of your reach, your local USTA chapter also runs events designed to help kids learn and love the game.


The courts dried quickly once the sun came out.


Fun and games with new Regional Rally t-shirts


USTA NorCal exec. dir. Steve Leube leads the lunch charge


Sports Basement provided snacks and water for the kids


Free tennis-related items for the participants


Carl Mendoza of Youth Tennis Advantage running the kids through drills

I had the pleasure of attending an NJTL Regional Rally at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Though the courts were wet from overnight rain, you would never have known it by the smiles on the kids’ faces. (Thankfully, sunny skies dried the courts within hours for a beautiful afternoon of tennis!)

The NJTL (National Junior Tennis and Learning) network was co-founded by Ashe in 1969 “as a way to gain and hold the attention of young people in the inner cities and other poor environments so that we can teach them about matters more important than tennis.” [From arthurashekidsday.com]

Back in those days, the NJTL provided free tennis racquets to the participants. But though it’s more costly to provide free racquets these days, the NJTL still provides opportunities for kids to play the game who might not otherwise have the means to do so. It’s one of the most important aspects of the USTA’s youth outreach efforts.

On this day, roughly 300 kids showed up to participate in games designed to help improve their footwork and hone their racquet skills. Courts were divided by age and skill levels, allowing everyone a chance to participate at the appropriate level for them to hit and have fun with others.

It was an impressive achievement by USTA NorCal staff, led by executive director Steve Leube. They were aided in their efforts by a dedicated group of volunteers from the participating NJTL groups.

Steve has coordinated the Regional Rally for several years, and was completely undaunted by the elements. After water was squeegeed off the courts, he had the volunteer instructors put the kids safely through their paces in short court games until the backcourt areas dried out sufficiently for play.

“Undaunted” is a perfect word to describe Steve, who clearly loves the game as well as working with the kids. When asked about the wet courts at the start of the day, he remarked: “I had a feeling we’d be pretty wet, judging by the fog over the city and the wet roads even before I crossed the (Bay) bridge. But it’s not like we haven’t had that happen before in San Francisco. It’ll be fine.”

Though he had to keep a watchful eye on the proceedings, Steve and I chatted for quite a while about the USTA’s commitment to youth tennis. Steve is less concerned about churning out pros than he is in helping kids become productive adults.

As with many sports, tennis helps kids become more active and, hopefully, live healthier lifestyles in the long run. More important to Steve, it can also be a valuable source of life lessons, teaching kids about problem-solving, fair play, and being a gracious winner or loser.

“The chance of any kid coming out of our program and turning pro is very small. Though it’s great when we hear about one of our juniors doing well, I’m most happy when someone comes up to me to say that participating in our program made a difference in their life.”

Financial challenges abound, however. “Back in the day, the national office could afford to do the free racquet program. Nowadays it costs too much. We can sometimes partner with companies for discounted racquets, but then there’s the cost of shoes. That can be an obstacle too.”

Sports Basement, a sporting-goods retailer, was a Regional Rally partner; providing snacks for the competitors. Participants also received lunch from Subway. This may not seem like much, but every donation has a huge impact on kids who wouldn’t normally have access to this type of activity.

My start with the NJTL of Cleveland gave me not only my first racquet, but a love of the game that’s going strong almost forty years later. So the work that Steve and his staff are doing is significant. And with that work, one can only hope that these kids are inspired to do great things, regardless of whether or not it’s on a tennis court.

(For more on the USTA’s NJTL Regional Rally at Golden Gate Park, visit http://www.norcal.usta.com/Juniors/2013_njtl_regional_rally_at_golden_gate_park/. For more information on the NJTL in NorCal and to find an NJTL chapter in your area, visit http://www.norcal.usta.com/juniors/njtl/ .)

PostHeaderIcon My 2013 USTA Chronicles: Match #6 versus Golden Gate Park A


Date: 6/8/2013

Location: Golden Gate Park

Conditions: Outdoors, windy

Doubles or Singles Played: Doubles

Match Result: 7-5 6-2 Loss

Season Record: 2-4

Match Notes: WIND! That was the word of the day, and the deciding factor in the match. The winds at Golden Gate Park were swirling in all directions across the back courts. If you moved well to handle the wind, you did okay.  If you didn’t move well, you didn’t do okay. It was as simple as that.

My partner for today’s match was Casey, a teammate I’ve known for years (and I do mean years!) He hits a great ball that is fairly flat and stays low. He suggested taking the ad court, so I took deuce.

Our opponents were a mixed-level pairing. One was extremely strong with great strokes on both sides, heavy topspin, excellent volleys, and a decently-paced serve that rarely missed. (Had an excellent body serve too!) The other hit two hands on both sides and was a little inconsistent. But he could also send balls back awkwardly by virtue of sticking his racquet out and making minimal contact. I got caught flatfooted a couple of times by those frustrating shots.

Breaks of serve will kill you in dubs, and we lost by a break in the first set, and two in the second set. What’s worse is that we were up 4-1 in the first before going down 7-5. For my part, and was disappointed in my lack of footwork in the wind. I didn’t keep my feet moving, and often found myself out of position and reaching for shots. That’s not a recipe for clean tennis under these conditions.

It’s always good to focus on the positives afterward too, so here is a bright spot from today’s loss. Sometimes when I face an opponent that I know is very good, I try too hard to hit great serves/shots and end up giving away free points. I kept that in check today and didn’t overplay my serves or shots. I only wish I could have handled the wind as well I did with my internal expectations.

Still, it was a good match. And it’s always good to hang with my team. If I can’t win, I can at least have fun. 🙂

Bonehead move of the day? Holding a tough service game with a well-placed chipped lob, then hitting my hand with my racquet in excitement — thereby injuring the pinky on my left hand. *facepalm*
Still, it’s not as bad as what Mikhail Youzhny did to himself…

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