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How to help girls court success in tennis
Tips for involving your child in tennis
JPMorgan Chase is celebrating 35 years of partnership with the US Open.
When Serena Williams won Wimbledon this July, she not only tied Steffi Graf for 22 grand slam wins and solidified her dominance in tennis, she inspired young girls from every background to participate in the sport. Williams, a Chase Master and spokesperson, was named Sports Illustrated's most recent "Sportsperson of the Year"—not just sportswoman of the year.
Inspiring the next generation
Getting that good isn't easy, or cheap: private, regular lessons with a coach need to start in childhood for a girl to have a shot at making it to the college or professional level.
If you're just looking to get your daughter interested in tennis—and, eventually, even play on a high school team—check out group clinics, which vary in price. If a tennis camp costs more than you want to spend, check with your local YMCA, or other national programs with community-based centers. Some camps cost as little as $100-$200 for a week of small-group training. The United States Tennis Association, in partnership with Chase, offers the Return the Serve campaign to bring tennis to underserved communities.
It's also helpful to read the message boards at tennis clubs. Many tennis clubs run tournaments throughout the year and may provide an affordable way for your child to play others at her age and skill level. Coaches can introduce you to other families they may work with. Ask these families to split the cost for a joint lesson, or simply meet up with them on your own time.
Check out "Play Days" as well. There are thousands of them held across the country annually at schools, parks, youth centers and colleges. They typically last about two to three hours and introduce children to the game in a low-pressure environment. Visit youthtennis.com to find one near you.
What the experts say
Craig Yahne is a tennis coach who works with many children in Seattle. He says that while one of his key goals is to make tennis fun for young girls, a good coach will make sure that when girls turns 7 or 8 years old, they're really targeting skills like forehand and backhand volleys, in addition to serves—the more aggressive parts of the game that make players like Williams first-class athletes.
Robin Stephenson, a University of Washington women's tennis coach, says that enthusiasm is key. So, too, is the ability to handle failure, because they're going to miss a lot of shots. Your child will need to be able to handle defeat and bounce back, without the benefit of the camaraderie she would get in a team sport. Consider doubles if you think your child would benefit from having a partner.
A personal story
Your daughter won't need expensive shoes, tennis rackets or balls. Consider the story of Taryn Parker's family.
Parker's twin daughters began playing tennis two years ago, at age 9. The girls—Toni and Tori—regularly power through various drills under the careful eyes of a tennis coach near the family's Los Angeles-area home, not far from where Serena Williams fell in love with the sport. In fact, the girls view Williams as a role model—partly because "Serena looks like them," Parker says.
Parker is a self-described bargain shopper who carefully finds affordable tennis balls, rackets and clothes. Relatives have also supported the girls' tennis activities. Now, the girls hope to play tennis in college.
Tennis, Parker says, has changed her daughters' lives. "I love seeing their confidence as they throw on their 'tennis girl' outfits," Parker says. She says she believes that organizations, and school districts, should introduce girls like her daughters to the dynamic tennis world. "You can't put a price tag on leadership skills tennis provides," Parker says, adding: "These girls were amazing without tennis, yet there is a little extra bounce in their step with the game in their lives. Those chins are held high to the sky."
Read more about Chase at the US Open.
Nicole Sprinkle has written about dining, travel and parenting for the The Huffington Post, Seattle Weekly, Sunset magazine, TimeOut New York Kids and many other publications.