22% more participation in 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic, what is the next step


Tennis caused quite a stir during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, in a good way.

According to a report on participation from the Physical Activity Council (PAC), 2020 saw a 22% increase in tennis participation in the United States. More than 21.6 million people played the sport last year, with more than 6.7 million either new players or returning to the sport after being away for some time. The number of new players courted (nearly 3 million) was 44% higher than the benchmark number for 2019.

Last December I covered for Forbes why tennis has remained a good option for people seeking to rally to both physical and social activity during the pandemic’s turn around. Unless you’re doing something horribly wrong, tennis shouldn’t involve tackling, wrestling, checking, or any other similar close physical contact. So you can play tennis while maintaining social distancing as long as you replace the endgame handshake with something like a racket stroke, a “you complete me” look while forming the shape of a heart. with your fingers, or just a very intense gaze. At the same time, tennis can give you a good workout, moving most of your body, except maybe your ears. And sport can be quite social. After all, playing tennis in complete silence without any conversation would be a bit unusual.

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has shown how tennis can help people stay fit and interact with each other, even when nature lets us down. This could therefore be a great opportunity for a revival of tennis in the United States. As a result, the USTA Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the United States Tennis Association Incorporated (USTA), is organizing the “Rally for the Future” campaign. The goal is to raise $ 20 million over the next three years to support more than 250 National Junior Tennis and Learning Chapters (NJTL) across the United States.

“Rally for the Future is the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the USTA Foundation,” said Kathleen Wu, President of the USTA Foundation. Think of this as a return of service to the ‘Rally to Rebuild’ campaign which raised over $ 6.5 million in 2020 to support NJTL chapters that have been criticized by the Covid-19 pandemic. This funding kept all NJTL chapters open in 2020 with 209 chapters offering at least four weeks of tennis programming. “None of the places needed to be closed,” Wu said. “It showed us that there is a lot that we can do on an even bigger scale. “

Wu explained how The Rally for the Future campaign will help further develop the chapters of the NJTL network and provide free or low cost tennis and education programs to over 160,000 disadvantaged youth across the country. “In 1969, Arthur Ashe founded the NJTL network to reach out to low-income and underserved communities and give everyone access to tennis. Many of these communities have been hit hardest by the pandemic. “

She highlighted how such tennis programs can not only tackle the epidemic of physical inactivity that the United States is facing, but also provide “life skills education”. In fact, the NJTIL network served as central courts for different struggling communities during the pandemic. For example, Addison Staples, executive director of Aces in Motion (AIM) located in Gainesville, Fla., Described what happened when schools switched to online courses in 2020: “With help from all Our staff, we designed a comprehensive after school program, which reflected the exact same format as we had before, but all online. We always offered 1: 1 tutoring, we always offered socialization, games, exercise, mental health counseling, so we had a mental health counselor on staff who would meet with students to talk about their struggles and challenges with the pandemic, we had cooking classes, guest speakers and more, all offered five days a week.

When schools started resuming in-person lessons, but not all students felt comfortable doing so, AIM implemented 20 to 25 learning modules for students. “More than 90% of our students are 150% below the poverty line, which means that when the pandemic struck some students were forced to help families with work, rent and food,” Staples added. “The other thing we did as a lot of people were worried about paying their electricity bills, rent and food, we partnered with other organizations to deliver food to families, we paid Internet as needed, we distributed laptops. to the students of our program and we paid for the internet for those who couldn’t afford it.

As another example, Dave Higaki, Executive Director of East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring (EPATT), mentioned how USTA Foundation funding has helped them “expand our tennis programming.” Once we were able to get back to the courts and local government officials, but tennis as one of the acceptable activities as an ideal social distancing sport, we actually extended our tennis schedule to 10 hours per week. at about 35 hours a week because what tennis did is that it responded to the social and emotional needs of children and kept them away from their computers and zoom and to engage with their peers and interaction much needed social and exercise.

The Rally for the Future campaign will not only support the NJTL chapters in general, but will also strengthen several key programs for the chapters. One is the “Return the Serve” program presented by CHASE, where Chase will provide education and learning opportunities focused on financial health. Another is the NJTL Essay Competition presented by Deloitte where NJTL participants will write essays that answer thought-provoking questions. A third program is the USTA Foundation College Scholarship Awards. A fourth will be the American Express-supported Student-Athletes / Excellence program, which will select high-potential student-athletes for success at the college and professional levels.

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic may have offered tennis in the United States a breaking point, a key turning point. After all, not too long ago, Merlisa Lawrence Corbett wrote an article in 2013 for The launderer’s report titled “Why is American Tennis Dying?” As you can imagine, the word “die” is not a positive one unless you mean “die to play” or “die from your pants.” Despite the growth of tennis in other parts of the world, there was the perception in the United States that tennis was not a sport for the masses. In fact, finding a real pair of tennis shoes in some shoe stores has become as difficult as finding an alpaca in a nightclub.

However, that can all change. With the pandemic removing many issues in the United States, such as physical inactivity and income inequality, tennis may have found its focus. It could be a lasting way to get kids and adults from all walks of life moving again.

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