An American tennis life features several rites of passage - you pick up a racquet for the first time. You play your first match. If you're lucky, these initial experiences begin at a young age, so that you can become involved with USTA youth league programs like Jr. Team Tennis.
Then, as the indiscriminate flow of time dictates, you grow up - but you never have to stop being part of a team.
USTA Tennis On Campus (TOC) is represented here in Surprise for the 2010 USTA Jr. Team Tennis 18U National Championships, educating graduating players on what could be the next chapter in their tennis timelines.
In between matches, teams approached the tent outside located right alongside the facility's main show court and were treated with promotional fliers, posters and various prizes that could be won by taking part in a bean bag toss contest.
"It’s a natural fit for us to be here," said Justin Street, USTA TOC National Coordinator. "A lot of these kids are going off to college very soon; some are already freshmen this current year, playing for their club teams."
The USTA Tennis On Campus program is anything and everything recreational tennis on college campuses across the country, including: Sport club tennis teams, intramural tennis leagues and tournaments, recreational classes, and physical education classes.
While all pieces of recreational college tennis are important, much of the Tennis On Campus program is focused on sport club tennis teams - and much like Jr. Team Tennis, the program holds sectional and national competition tournaments such as the USTA National Campus Championship and the USTA Campus Championship Section Events.
Currently, 525 major colleges and universities offer Tennis On Campus play.
"Most of our club teams are No-Cut programs where everyone is welcome and invited to play," said Street. "You could be a very skilled junior that could play varsity tennis in many Division I programs, or you could be brand new to the game and have a place on the team."
Akin to the experience of going off and attending college, Tennis On Campus is often a player's first real experience with autonomy, as TOC puts all aspects of the game in the players' hands - clubs are ran by students, funded by students and completely organized by students, down to practice schedules and travel arrangements.
Still, the similarities between the two programs are evident, according to Street:
"We're both co-ed, both team-based, and most of all, a lot of fun."