So now that the United States is out of the World Cup, will you be turning your attention towards Wimbledon? In our family, watching Wimbledon over the long 4th of July weekend is a tradition. The television stays on whenever we are not at the beach, and when someone heads inside to grab a drink or snack, they come back to the beach with a full update for the rest.
Tennis is of course, a sport of athleticism. Though what makes it fascinating is that it is equally based on strategy and determination. Venus Williams once said that, “Tennis is mostly mental. Of course, you must have a lot of physical skill, but you can’t play tennis well and not be a good thinker. You win or lose the match before you even go out there.”
This is prime tennis season on some of the world’s biggest stages, with Wimbledon in full swing and the U.S. Open set to begin later this summer. Growing up, my family did not live far from Flushing Meadow, where the U.S. Open takes place, so we were able to attend on several occasions. Even now, living a few hours away, we try to get in a day at the Open whenever possible.
The beauty of tennis, beyond the fact that it is a tough sport played in a tranquil setting, is that it can be played anywhere, at any age, by anybody. And as Venus Williams put it, tennis is as much about physical skill as it is about mental skill.
Not far from where I live now is the National Junior Tennis & Learning of Trenton, Inc. (NJTLT), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of youths with programs based on the ideals of tennis legend Arthur Ashe. Their goal is to create an environment that enables the youth they serve to learn the skills they need to be productive both in tennis and in life, from physical health and emotional wellbeing, to responsible behavior and consideration of others. Aren’t those exactly the types of skills we all want our children to learn?
In a region where there are many under-served, at-risk youth, and a large number of after-school programs have been eliminated, NJTLT serves more than 2,500 young people each year for free. They provide tennis instruction throughout the school year, as well as a summer program that runs five days a week during July and August. They provide after school learning with a program that encourages optimal health and wellness, as well as social skills. There are group discussions and reading groups that emphasize comprehension, vocabulary, and listening skills. NJLT offers academic tutoring for those who need help with homework or test preparation, as well as access to computers. Ashe Elite players can participate in a competition in which the winners receive scholarship funds. They even offer opportunities such as field trips to Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the U.S. Open.
What a fabulous way to enrich the lives of children.
Recently the NJTLT facility has undergone a drastic redevelopment that will come to completion this summer. The refurbished and new courts can all be seen from the brand new pavilion. On Friday, August 15th, tennis greats Jim Courier and Todd Martin will be on hand to attend the dedication of the new on-site pavilion, named after Daniel L. Haggerty Jr., once a groundskeeper in Trenton and father of current United States Tennis Association CEO, Chairman, and President Dave Haggerty. His story could be a blog post of its own.
To learn more about the NJTLT, to make a donation, or to register for any of their programs, go to: http://www.njtloftrenton.com/.