By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
Andre Agassi runs to grab a loose ball at the net, tracks it down and quickly throws it to First Lady Michelle Obama, who is his ballperson counterpart at the back of the court.
The First Lady catches the ball and puts it on the racquet of one of the two girls playing 10 and Under Tennis on a court and with equipment correctly sized for them. The other competitor gets a towel from the ballperson at the back of her side of the court, who happens to be Stefanie Graf.
And just why is the First Lady and two of the greatest tennis players of all time serving as ballpersons?
It is, in fact, a public service announcement (PSA) that is a collaboration between the First Lady’s "Let’s Move!" campaign and the USTA to promote tennis as one way for children to stay active, have fun and receive the 60 minutes of play a day that they require.
The "Let’s Move!" initiative is working to fight childhood obesity and encourages young people to lead active and healthy lives, and one way is through the USTA’s 10 and Under Tennis initiative. 10 and Under Tennis, featuring the QuickStart Tennis play format, scales down the game for children with smaller courts and racquets as well as lower compression balls that make it easier for them to have fun and have success playing tennis.
The USTA is creating both a 60-second and a 30-second version of the PSA, which will be used in tennis programming on CBS Sports, ESPN and Tennis Channel. It will go into a broader rotation during the summer leading up to the 2011 US Open.
Agassi will compete in the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden on February 28 against his former rival Pete Sampras as part of Tennis Night in America. Along with his wife Graf, he had a great time meeting the First Lady and filming the PSA with her, as they both share the same goal of improving the health and lives of children.
"It was a great experience. I was just up there sending the message of health for kids and doing it through the vehicle of tennis and QuickStart," he said. "As far as the First Lady goes, it was the first time I met her. She is a very engaging, beautiful lady. It was a joy to spend about 30 or 40 minutes with her that day. We share the same passion as it relates to affecting our next generation; she is committed to it through health and awareness of child obesity and avoiding that. And I am at it through education and through the sport of tennis, and that intersection collided with QuickStart and her mission."
Tennis Night in America officially kicks off the 2011 tennis season, and over 600 facilities throughout the country will be holding youth registration events throughout March to sign more children up for spring and summer tennis programs and get their parents more involved in the game.
The USTA is also committed to constructing and renovating 3,000 tennis courts across the country in 2011 as part of the collaboration, with all the courts being lined for use in QuickStart Tennis. The newly built and renovated courts will be in places where local officials, public parks and schools commit to building tennis into their core programming for kids. Click here
for an application for a new court or to learn more about it.
In addition, the USTA will use its resources and programs, including its National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network, to encourage 200,000 kids to take the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) that challenges them to be active 60 minutes a day and five days a week for six weeks throughout an eight-week period. The PALA has a goal of encouraging 1,000,000 children to take on the challenge.