The inaugural Hall of Fame ITA Grass Court Invitational has not only provided student-athletes with a unique opportunity to play on the historic grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, but also a chance to have an impact on the lives of the next generation of future tennis players.
On Saturday, Gabe Tishman of Michigan, along with Harvard’s Sabrina Xiong and Natasha Gonzalez shared their experiences of growing up playing the sport of tennis and being a collegiate student-athlete with members of the group Tenacity.
Based out of Boston, Tenacity is a pathway to post-secondary success, by improving the scholastic, character and physical development of less advantaged urban youth through a combination of literacy, life skills development, family engagement and fitness/tennis. Tenacity students currently hold a 95% high school graduation rate and 70% of graduates are attending or have completed post-secondary programs (credit: tenacity.org).
“As college players, we need to show these kids the path and show them what a respectful college match, on grass courts, is like,” said Tishman, a sophomore. “They can see a high level of tennis and look up to that for the future. Some kids may not want to pursue tennis, but the ones who do can look up to us and aspire to be a college tennis player. Even the ones that don’t, they can find what they love and hopefully pursue that.”
Xiong, also a sophomore, relished the opportunity to talk to the Tenacity group.
“It’s always a great experience to talk to younger kids who are in the position I was in a couple of years back,” said Xiong. “It’s great to be able to tell them my experience and help them through the process, because I’ve been through it.”
A member of the New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL), Xiong felt a connection to the kids she spoke to on Saturday.
“I owe a lot of the beginning of my tennis career to NYJTL and it’s a great program, because it’s very accessible to a diverse group of children,” said Xiong. “I really enjoyed my experience there.”
For Gonzalez, who is taking part in her first weekend of collegiate tennis, she’s thoroughly enjoyed the experiences provided to her at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
“It was a really big honor to be asked to speak to the kids,” said Gonzalez. “I wasn’t expecting it. It was a great experience, and very exciting to hear from all of the kids about their hopes and dreams for the future.”