"Come on James, well played!!". That's me yelling encouragement to my son James. Over the past 6 years, I have been involved in getting my now 11-year old son learn the game of tennis. Starting with him picking up a racket for the first time, not knowing which one was his stronger arm and several other early stage matters, he has been learning tennis continuously these past 5 years. He started out in tennis because I probably encouraged him (strongly) to take it up as a sport. Being a typical American kid, he is very drawn to football. Strangely, a lot of kids in his school hint to him that tennis is a sport for girls! That's a common theme I hear and it hurts to hear that. Perhaps these kids that are being told this ought to ask their parents if they ever played tennis. I am sure it would change their minds if they were to try a cardio tennis class!! At the risk of going off on a tangent, I would submit that Americans tend to pursue sports like NFL football, ice hockey and basketball because their kids can be successful at an "American" sport. Additionally, it also plays to a somewhat passive-aggressive mentality. Football, hockey, etc. often glorify physical injury, fights, leading with the helmet as a weapon. Perhaps they ought to go to boxing. Oh wait, that's taken over mostly by Latinos and under-privileged African-Americans!!
The USA could do with more grassroots tennis coaching. For years, the US had gotten used to having several top 10 tennis players around. From the Connors and McEnroe years of the late 70s and early 80s to the golden era of the 90s that included Sampras, Agassi, Courier and others. An early warning was sounded in the 80s when the top players were European (Becker, Edberg, Wilander, Lendl). Even the 90s had players like Ivanisevic and Guga Kuerten. But our administrators just sat on their butts and thought the US would be a never-ending conveyor belt of tennis talent. Just like the West Indies thought that great cricketers would never be in short supply. Of course, the US has a significant advantage compared to Windies in that there is a lot of money here, recessions notwithstanding. We need this to be channeled better and the USTA has done a fairly good job. I wish they would get more funds allocated to elementary and middle schools so courts can be made available at an early age. How come most schools can allocate space for a basketball court and even a football/soccer ground but nothing for tennis? Wake up USTA! The world is leaving us behind.
I enjoy it when the kids play Junior Team Tennis. It's a team environment, fosters camaraderie and relationships, and is good fun all around. JTT should be promoted much more vigorously by USTA.
Our local tennis club, Culpeper Sport and Racquet Club, just won the tennis facility of the year in our region. It provides covered clay courts, has a great program with high quality USTA coaches (George, Dena, Kevin) and has a great pool of talent in all age groups. This is great. I just wish more such facilities were available for kids to learn tennis.