By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
WASHINGTON D.C. -- From 10 and Under Tennis to adult players to parents who want to take a more active role in their child's personal development, the Community Tennis Development Workshop (CTDW) each year serves as the meeting of the most tireless minds from all 17 USTA sections and the national level to discuss the future of tennis in the United States.
As part of USTA.com's coverage of the 2011 CTDW in Washington D.C., we're going around the workshops to discover which new ideas, initiatives and practices are pushing people towards the ultimate goal: To promote and develop the game at all levels.
Along the way we'll meet the impassioned speakers delivering the presentations and come to know what drives their efforts.
Who they are:
- Barry Ford, USTA Director of Outreach & Advocacy
- Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance
- Terri Ferinde Dunham, Partner, Collaborative Communications Group
- Jill Riemer, Executive Director, Georgia Afterschool Investment Council
Why they're speaking:
In 2011, there are 8.5 million children -- mostly in public schools -- involved with organized after-school activities in over 26,000 qualified programs that keep kids active and safe. Yet there are still 18 million at-risk kids living in areas where programs are not currently offered or have been discontinued.
Organizations, such as the Afterschool Alliance, are doggedly advocating for more after-school investments at the federal and state levels in spite of the economic downturn of the past several years. A growing consensus of government officials is citing tennis as optimal for kids with working parents in need of activity, as after-school tennis programs can educate children about culture and nutrition in a setting of physical activity.
Connecting schools with community-based tennis associations has been a principal challenge.
"There's a wide range of experience and interest in this room," said Ford. "Many backgrounds are represented. You have people involved with their local school system, some people who are on state school boards, and others who are simply concerned tennis providers who probably found all of this information to be very new.
"My hope in all this was that everyone walked away with at least an understanding of the shape of the after-school world. There's a large ecosystem that has been built nationally over the past dozen years that they may not have exactly known about, while the more experienced folks received some practical action steps on what they can do to make greater connections within their communities."
Feature Idea: "You don't need to be a lobbyist - but you do need to be an enthusiast"
As the panel opened itself for discussion with the audience, the clear message was that a partnership with defined roles leads to success.
"As attendees, it's important that you realize that we're not asking you to be lobbyists to Capitol Hill but do your best to sell yourselves to your community," said Grant. Exposure with local community-based organizations and finding a way to alert local officials of progress is the prime way to increase revenues.
"You should watch and be aware of the process, but let intermediaries work for you and fight the fight for funding and making inroads with schools," added Dunham.
The expectations put upon providers are as follows: Be a strong organization. Keep trying to provide the best programming with kids in mind. Lastly, invite leaders into your courts and clubs to see what you're all about.
Should a provider still wish to reach out to legislators, they are encouraged to write local and state officials, as well as their congressman. "Draft the same exact letter to all three -- after-school programs are important at every level," said Grant.
How to Improve: Look South
Jill Reimer, representing a Georgia Afterschool Tennis & Education (GATE) program that actively assists providers at 35 sites in three different cities, offered advice based on recent success in addressing a nationwide issue.
"Physical fitness needs are not going away. Our approach with Augusta, Atlanta and Savannah-area schools is as partners in trying to beat childhood obesity. It's an issue that we all, as parents and concerned Americans, can identify with. The funding might not be available to give coverage from Monday through Friday, but you can facilitate change in whatever you can provide.
"There'll be skepticism, and economic constraints are real, but the idea that output and innovation will decrease with smaller budgets is a falsehood. Right now, development of learning models and curriculum building has never been better."