The International Tennis Hall of Fame welcomed some very special guests to the 2017 Hall of Fame ITA Grass Court Invitational in September. Thirty-one students from Tenacity, a youth development organization that provides athletic, academic, and life skills development to young adults in Boston, visited the Newport campus for a tennis day unlike any other.
The young tennis fans took advantage of the opportunity to see high-caliber tennis action up close, spoke with a panel of current collegiate student-athletes, explored the museum to learn more about tennis history and the Hall of Famers, and had a hit on the courts themselves.
Drew Hendrickson, Tenacity’s Director of Tennis, Fitness, and Summer Programs, took a few minutes to look back on their visit.
Q: What was it like spending the day at the 2017 Hall of Fame ITA Grass Court Invitational?
A: "We love this event. It offers us a wide range of activities. We saw some great tennis, and our kids really enjoyed that. They were so excited to see young men and women rip serves and play so tough and be so close to the action. Players could hear us cheering, and we could hear them talking to themselves, pumping themselves up.
I hope some of our kids try to practice that type of effort and passion in their own tennis. Another highlight was speaking to the college athletes (Victor Pham (COL), Kennan Johnson (LSU), Sara Daavettila (UNC), Robert Loeb (UGA)). What motivates them? What helped them get better? Our kids learn a lot from hearing about that.
The museum was also really fun as we get to learn about the long history of tennis. And then we play, which the kids LOVE. They had so much fun running around out there, and getting to compete with each other. We don’t get that much access to real tennis courts, usually we play in gyms, so to play in a beautiful facility was a treat.
Overall, the Hall of Fame trip offers us so much. We get to do a wide range of things that is stimulating visually, mentally, and physically. It’s one of our best trips of the year!"
Q: Why was this trip important in the student’s lives?
A: "It’s important because kids get to see tennis celebrated in a meaningful way. The facility is impeccable. The players are super passionate. The history of the game is so long and wonderfully laid out. We always try to convince kids that tennis is cool, and that they should really see themselves as tennis players. To be in a setting like this, tennis seems incredibly cool, and these great athletes have dedicated themselves to the sport. It gives tennis serious credibility among our students when it’s taken so seriously. They do not often have the chance to see tennis in this light. Usually it’s a secondary sport or something they know nothing about. On this day though, it’s about the coolest thing in the world. That goes a long way toward the student buy-in to what we are doing."
Q: How long have the students have been in the program? How does Tenacity help set up the students for success in life?
A: "Tenacity kids start the program in the 6th grade. They continue through high school and even college. Our goal is to create a community of support that empowers students to achieve post-secondary success, which is college or a successful career. Tennis is a huge community-builder, and it teaches our students how to work hard. Most of our kids have never really played a sport, and they benefit a great deal from the rigor and routine of tennis practice. They also see themselves improve. They get better and better, and before long, they go from not knowing much at all about tennis to considering themselves a real tennis player. They now have ‘tennis player’ as part of their identity. The theory is that if they can become real tennis players, then they can become successful scholars as well or successful community leaders or whatever they want. Through Tenacity, they have learned the skill of hard work and bouncing back. They did that as a tennis player. They can go do it in whatever field they choose."
Tenacity is a rapidly growing youth development organization providing intensive athletic, academic, and life skills development programs to Boston youth. The mission of Tenacity is to improve the scholastic, character, and physical development of urban youth by combining tennis instruction and academic support with a focus on life skills.Since 1999, Tenacity has helped over 30,000 students build a foundation for lifelong achievement through in-school, after-school and summer programs that provide tools for excellence in school, career, and life. Find out more information at Tenacity.org.