For thousands of children and adults across the country, tennis is more than just a game: it’s a potential life-changer. “We are in the business of serving up dreams,” says Daniel J. Faber, executive director of the USTA Foundation. As the charitable arm of the United States Tennis Association, the nonprofit seeks to impact the lives of underprivileged youth, military veterans and individuals with disabilities through the athleticism, power and discipline of tennis. Based in White Plains, NY, the organization supports tennis programs nationwide and has given more than $22 million in grants and scholarships to 300 programs that benefit children and adults. In Fairfield County, USTAF focuses specifically on youth programs and has partnered with the CT Alliance for Tennis & Education to fund youth tennis in Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury, Fairfield and Bridgeport.
As many tennis stars can attest, early exposure to the sport can inspire a lifelong passion, teach concentration, boost confidence and possibly even jump-start a promising career. With this at the heart of its mission, USTAF supports the National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL), which runs 500 tennis education programs across the country, predominantly serving under-resourced youth. The results, as reported by the foundation, have been astounding. Ninety-eight percent of children nationwide say it has improved social development, while an overwhelming majority of kids say that tennis has given them a more positive attitude about learning math and reading. Plus, these skills have long-reaching potential benefits: ninety percent of NJTL college scholarship recipients complete four-year degree programs. “I am an NJTL product and I know first-hand the value that it provides to young girls and boys all across the country,” says Sloane Stephens, WTA Pro Tour player. Stephens, who trained in Florida as a preteen with USTA coach Andy Brandi, has started her own foundation, funded in part by a grant from USTAF, to expand school tennis programs in her hometown of Fresno, CA.
USTAF has enlisted the support of some of tennis’ most recognizable names, from John McEnroe to Fairfield, CT, native James Blake. Some of these stars can credit the start of their success to an outreach program: Blake trained as a young player with the NJTL chapter in Harlem, NY. Last year, he became chairman of the USTAF, a way for the former No. 4-ranked player in the world to give back to an organization that helped launch his career.
“As a kid, I learned the value tennis could add to my life while being encouraged to stay academically focused during my participation in programs like these,” says Blake, who retired in 2013. “Together we can impact kids’ attitudes and behaviors toward tennis, education, health and social development. What greater good is there than that?”
How to Help
Celebrate: The 6th annual Connecticut Pro-Am & Gala at the Stanwich Club in Greenwich, CT, on August 25 and 26 will benefit USTAF. The event will include a junior clinic and an evening gala on August 25 and pro-am doubles on August 26. Synchrony Financial is a presenting sponsor of the CT Pro Am & Gala.
Donate: Funding USTAF will support its many forms of outreach, from grants that underwrite NJTL youth programs to college scholarships and player incentive awards for talented students.