With the aim of fostering a lifelong love of tennis in young children in Wellington, members participating in the U.S. Tennis Association’s 10 & Under Program met Monday at the Wellington Tennis Center to discuss the future.
Last summer, Wellington received a $100,000 grant from the USTA to bring the program to Wellington’s tennis facilities, schools and other organizations that work with children. Wellington is one of only three Florida communities and just 25 nationally to receive the grant.
“We picked this community because it had a lot of seeds that just need to be nurtured,” said Andy McFarland of the USTA. “The goal is to build a self-sustaining 10 & Under Tennis Program. Some of these kids will never go on to play college tennis or professional tennis, but they can be recreational players who will love the game and play for the rest of their lives.”
The program is geared toward younger children. Children play on smaller courts, using smaller and lighter racquets as well as slower-moving and lower-bouncing balls. Additionally, the net is lower to make it easier for them to get the ball across the court.
Wellington children can participate in the program at the Wellington Tennis Center, at school or at several tennis clubs in neighborhoods throughout Wellington.
McFarland said that the grant covers hiring coordinator Debbie Ellsworth as well as investing in the community’s tennis infrastructure.
“We want to see where we can paint permanent lines on hard courts, on school courts, and put semi-permanent lines on clay courts where appropriate,” he said. “We want to make sure we get equipment to the right people and that we reach out to the community so they participate.”
Ellsworth said that the program has grown since its inception.
“Our main goal was to get the schools involved,” she said. “We went to all eight schools, and in October, we had PE teacher training. We went into the Boys & Girls Club and started the program there. We have the Girl Scouts coming once a month.”
The program also had a presence at the South Florida Fair this year, showing off 10 & Under Tennis.
“From all of that,” Ellsworth said, “we now have more than 100 participants. It’s tripled since the beginning.”
The program also fielded its first 10 & Under team at a competition this year. “It was more exciting to watch than the professional players,” Ellsworth said.
To keep kids engaged, Ellsworth and the USTA have planned a number of PlayDays — a noncompetitive opportunity for children to enjoy tennis and tennis-related activities. “You can have kids of all levels play,” she said.
McFarland noted that the PlayDays are ideal for young children with short attention spans.
“We’ll have them out on multiple courts, they’ll play in a round-robin type event so they’re playing all the time, and there will be music and food,” he said. “It’s a way to appease parents and children. The parents know they’ll be there for only an hour or two, and the kids can come have fun with their friends and then go home.”
The first PlayDay is scheduled for Tuesday, March 13 at 4 p.m. at the Wellington Tennis Center. Children already enrolled in the 10 & Under Tennis Program play free, and it costs $10 for children not already at a facility.
The next PlayDay will be Saturday, April 28 at 1 p.m., and on Saturday, May 19, Ellsworth invites families out for a day of fun.
For more about the events or the program, contact Ellsworth at email@example.com.