Schools and recreational programs have long supported sports like football and basketball, but there's a new one to add to the roster, at least in Hillsborough County: tennis.
Hillsborough County was one of two Florida counties to receive grant money from the United States Tennis Association (USTA) national office and USTA Florida to promote tennis to an estimated 100,000 elementary kids throughout the county. Dubbed the 10 and Under Tennis initiative, the program will partner with Hillsborough County Schools, city rec centers and tennis facilities to teach the game to kids old enough to hold and swing a racquet to 10-year old players who, the program leaders hope, will want to play on a competitive level.
"Tennis is lagging behind other traditional sports," says Jeff Davis, recently appointed as the program's Hillsborough County coordinator. "We feel it will succeed because it's been on their own terms -- smaller racquets and balls, and smaller courts."
Davis says the courts at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) were reconfigured in the fall of 2010 for smaller players.
"We built the first permanent 8-and-under tennis court in the state of Florda," he says. "We took 12 courts and made six courts for the 10-and-under players. We took three of the 78-foot courts and made them into 12, 36-by-18-foot courts. It looks like a little tennis center. The six other courts are still adult but allow for 60-foot play with blended lines."
Davis says he anticipates the program will have a positive affect on Tampa businesses. "Kids are going to need kid-sized racquets, balls and shoes," he says. "And we anticipate plenty of special events that will provide opportunities for businesses to participate."
Source: Jeff Davis, Hillsborough County/USTA Florida
Writer: Missy Kavanaugh