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DIVERSITY & INCLUSION MONTHLY SPOTLIGHTS:

 

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Matarazzo earns Hero designation

 

Story by Blair Henley for USTA.com

tennismag-hero_125xWhen Vicky Matarazzo was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, she had simple instructions for her doctors: They needed to perform the necessary mastectomy quickly so she could take her Special Olympics tennis players to nationals five weeks later.

Her medical team obliged, and Matarazzo took her place by her students’ side as she had so many times before. Her dedication to her athletes has become legendary in Colorado since she took over a Denver Special Olympics tennis program 1994. She has expanded opportunities for adaptive athletes exponentially, starting a variety of new programs and watching her players collect medals all over the world.

Matarazzo was a 30-year-old mother of five when she first stepped onto a tennis court. She made a foray into coaching about a decade later, turning a local high school team into a Colorado powerhouse. During that time, she found her true passion after answering an ad for a local Special Olympics coach. “It was like the reason God sent me to tennis at age 30 was not because I was going to go to Wimbledon,” she says, “but because I was going to be a Special Olympics director.”

No disability was too severe for Matarazzo to take on. She has been known to put bells on racquets to help blind athletes, even developing a Velcro fastening system for students unable to properly grip a frame. David Jensen is one of her most memorable success stories. He arrived at a class after a childhood seizure robbed him of his mobility, speech and much of his sight. He now has several gold medals to his name.

“Those born with adversity often turn out better than those of us that weren’t,” Matarazzo says. “Every day of their life is adversity, and we whine about the silliest little things.”

Watching her students deal with disability has undoubtedly prepared Matarazzo to manage her own ongoing health issues. In 2014, just four years after her breast cancer battle, doctors diagnosed her with stage IV lung cancer. Against the odds, the 68-year-old is still active in coaching her beloved Special Olympics players.

“Even though I know my life is probably coming close to an end, I know I’ve had an opportunity to touch lives,” she says. “People think tennis is just a game, but if they spent one day with me, they would see that it is so much more.”

Matarazzo, a recipient of the 2003 Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for the USTA Intermountain Section as well as several other local honors, has spoken to many groups in hopes that her experience will inspire others to make a difference. Her enthusiasm is convincing, contagious and immediately invites the question: What are the rest of you waiting for?

“I don’t care if people remember my name, but if they can take one thing away, I’d want them to find an opportunity to change a life.”

Keeping it fun key to young netter's success

Contributed by Colorado Tennis Association

Diego_Garica-Gallo-Jun_2016_USTACO_D_I_PhotoThere’s a new netter in town and his name is Diego Garcia-Gallo. 

Introduced to tennis by his mother, Susan Gallo, Diego started in USTA Colorado’s Star Search program and has quickly progressed, winning the Gates Summer Slam in both the 10s and 12s. He continues participating in Star Search, but in addition, refines his skills through Team Colorado and the Denver Tennis Youth Academy.

Diego’s perspective on tennis is wise beyond his 11 years.

“Tennis helps me when I’m mad or sad,” he explains. “It always makes me happy.” He’s a strong basketball player and skier, as well, and knows these sports help with conditioning and agility.

Father, Fred Garcia, said he attributes Diego’s talent in tennis to his natural athleticism.

“I think Diego is a strong overall athlete. He has a nervous energy that lends itself well to tennis.” He said if there is a ball around anywhere, Diego will have it and be tossing it around.

Diego’s parents are a good pair for helping him develop. Susan, an avid player herself knows all about how to improve his skills and how to pick the right shoes and racquets to help him play his best. His father gives him a positive perspective towards the game, wanting him to have fun while progressing.

Looking up to Rafa Nadal for his on-court ability to handle his emotions and Gael Monfils for his unique and exciting style, Diego has his eyes set on playing high school and then college tennis and possibly professional tennis down the road. His favorite stroke is his topspin forehand and he wants to keep working on his backhand. Having a broken right arm last summer let him play left-handed doubles, and he found it worked pretty well. Having the ability to play with both hands is something Diego appreciates.

Diego loves tennis and knows keeping it fun is the key to his success. He said if he was to advise younger athletes just starting out on the court he would tell them, “not to think about it too much. Just hit the ball a lot and work on your form later.”

Coach Thompson taking DU to the next level


Contributed by USTA Colorado staff:

It may be early in the season to predict success, but for Las Vegas-born Christian Thompson, the head tennis coach at Denver University, her third year at the helm of the women's program is looking pretty charming. Thompson spent three years at Yale as an assistant coach before coming to Denver in 2012 as an assistant for then-coach Jeremy Wurtzman.  A year later, Thompson was named head coach, a challenging role. “I feel so privileged and honored to be given the opportunity.”


After a stellar junior career in the Intermountain Section, Thompson competed at Notre dame with her twin sister, Catrina. The duo played alongside Colorado Tennis Hall of Famer Alicia Salas, and were a three-time All-American selection in doubles, 2005-2007. along with numerous awards and titles, she was inducted into the Nevada Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008, having achieved WTA world rankings as high as No. 437 in doubles and No. 936 in Singles.

But it’s her success in coaching that is currently generating both excitement and momentum for DU’s program. She’s led the Pioneers to back to back Summit League Championship titles, two consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament, and their most recent success was putting three players through to the semis at the ITA regionals where 128 netters competed. “As a coach you are thrilled when you can peak at a big tournament,” Thompson explained.

Thompson began playing tennis with her sister at the age of six. “Everyone will tell you we’ve had our sibling issues on the courts,” Thompson jokes, “but our chemistry is strong.” describing herself as more of the consistent, methodical player and Catrina as more of the aggressive big hitter, she said that having a built in hitting partner and accessible courts gave them undeniable advantages. “We were lucky to be able to play whenever we wanted.”

When asked about her personal coaching philosophy, Christian jokes that she might be considered to be a bit strict.  “I’ve always taught that dedication and hard work equal opportunity,” she said of her approach to the sport. A self-described intense planner, she said you have to put in the hours to earn the higher level of play. She has a “no phones at dinner” policy and plans each practice down to the minute.

“We always work on something specific,” she said, adding that, “I always try to put them in as many pressure situations as I can during practice.” Whether that means playing games with a single serve, or challenging them to get tougher physically with early morning practices, she knows that ultimately all of that will continue to help the DU ladies play to their potential.

“Ultimately it’s about not playing scared,” Thompson said. and it is her own fearlessness and gratitude that make her a great fit for the Pioneers. “I am blessed to be here and excited to see how far we can take the program.”

 

CYTF President on a mission to serve


Contributed by USTA Colorado staff:

Arthur Ashe has said, “From what we get, we can make living; what we give, however, makes a life.”

Colorado_FebThose words hold special meaning for Clinton C. Vessels, III, the interim president of the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation (CYTF). The stage 4 cancer survivor, who at one point had been given six months to live, is now more determined than ever to solidify his legacy of bringing the opportunity of tennis to everyone — especially underprivileged young people.  

Stepping onto the tennis court at the age of 10 under the influence of his beloved father, Clinton C. Vessels, Jr., his life direction would be permanently altered and the number of doors tennis would open would become hard to count. Starting as a ball boy for Arthur Ashe and then going on to be selected to play national tournaments, he would get to meet other tennis greats such as Althea Gibson. 

Being one of the first African-American athletes to have this opportunity ignited his passion to open doors for others.

“I was very lucky to be a part of that,” he explains regarding his extraordinary opportunity to travel the world and play tennis in clubs that at that time was prohibited to most African-Americans. He said he was also blessed to have two highly educated parents who had the means and desire to support the tennis dreams he had. Understanding that even in today’s world, however, economic and social factors still exist that can be a barrier for young athletes, he is on a mission to raise as much money for the foundation as he can.  

Clinton is in his 19th year serving on the board of the CYTF, which helps fund young netters from the ages of 8-18 by providing scholarships and program grants to ensure all kids have access to tennis, regardless of their economic, social or ethnic background. He knows that tennis isn’t just a sport — it’s much bigger than that.

“Tennis teaches etiquette, sportsmanship, honesty,” he explains, adding that it’s allowed him to meet “extraordinary people from all over the world.” He also says that’s such a mental game, one where you are forced to think for yourself.  

Clinton awakes each day grateful for life and tennis and the way they have complemented each other, life giving him tennis skills and tennis giving him life skills. He credits battling cancer to how he’s approached tennis. “Had I never been involved in tennis, I might not have approached it the same way. My life would not have been the same.”  

Supported by his incredible doctors, the tennis community, and his wife, Debra, who he’s known for 48 years, Clinton says that life after cancer forces him to prioritize and live each and every day with an understanding of how precious life is. Looking to solidify a legacy with the Foundation, he is focused on raising as much money as he can for as many kids as he can so that they will lead more fulfilling lives. Helping the families of disadvantaged youths, keeping them on track and putting them into a community where their dreams can come true is what it’s all about. 

USTA Colorado Executive Director Fritz Garger said Clinton’s strength and commitment are invaluable to the kids and the foundation.

“Clinton has been an integral part from Day 1 of the revitalized CYTF Board of Trustees. I have known him for most of my life and he represents so much of what is truly good about this sport. He’s thoughtful, considerate, caring and professional. The CYTF has been fortunate to have someone of his character involved with our work and our mission. He’s passionate about helping kids in need and knows first-hand what this sport can do for youngsters.” 

Acknowledging that tennis has given him more than he can give it, Clinton said he knows he must give back. And dealing with cancer? As financially and emotionally devastating as it has been and continues to be he said being forced to reprioritize has been rewarding. “I’m going to pick life over death,” he says laughing. “I was not born with an expiration date on my forehead.”

You can help Clinton continue to bring the sport of tennis to kids by visiting coloradotennis.com and clicking on the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation logo.

 

Still time to visit the Breaking the Barriers exhibit in Denver

By Charles Emmons
Commissioned by USTA Colorado

The cold weather makes us think of warmer climates and activities, like tennis. There is still time to see the exhibit at the downtown Denver Public Library recognizing Colorado’s diverse tennis community. Award winning photographer Barry Gutierrez photographed 39 tennis players and advocates of the game, and these life portraits are displayed with placards with their musings about tennis. The display is up through December.

1963_Davis.Cup.Team.Arthur.Ashe.TeamUSTA Colorado has led the way with promoting the Breaking the Barrier message of celebrating diverse tennis players and acknowledging their achievements. Inspiring other governing bodies around the country, a momentum is taking place where USTA Eastern in White Plains, NY and USTA Northern California in the Bay Area have utilized the International Tennis Hall of Fames’ Breaking the Barriers and ¡Vive El Tenis! exhibits in their communities.

In Denver, the Library’s current exhibit in the Gates Reading Room features African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans, as well as those with disabilities, who have found, played and promoted tennis within Colorado. It shines a light on Colorado’s broad spectrum of tennis players and advocates. 

“The stars aligned,” says Allen Kiel, who has a long history of volunteer tennis leadership.

The Breaking the Barriers exhibit was slated for the Denver Public Library, and the current president of Cherry Hills Country Club, Buz Koelbel was a 10-year old ball boy for the 1963 United States Davis Cup tie played there, the first for a young 20-year old player, Arthur Ashe. A celebration seemed appropriate, which was incorporated into a reception at the library in October, orchestrated by Paula McClain, Marketing and Director of Diversity, USTA Colorado.

1963 was tumultuous. It began with Alabama governor George Wallace’s, 'segregation now, segregation forever’ inaugural speech. June saw civil rights leader Medgar Evers assassinated. In August, Dr. Martin Luther King led the March on Washington. Tension and struggle ruled, yet club tennis pro, the late Arnie Brown and the club leadership courageously moved forward in hosting the event.

The Davis Cup team arrived early to get acclimated. Arthur Ashe stayed at Arnie Brown’s home. Ricardo “Pancho” Gonzales who had welcomed the talented Ashe into his home and had seen him at UCLA was coaxed out of retirement to coach the team. Koelbel recalls talking with Gonzales the icon, and interacting with Ashe and the other players. “Even as a 10-year old I realized it was a big event,” says Koelbel. “But it wasn’t until many years later that I realized it was a threshold event with Arthur being there and Pancho at Cherry Hills.”

AkijiThe event went off without incident or protest. “He would have quelled the problem if there was one,” says Jerry Berglund, of Arnie Brown. “He did things by example.” Berglund was a 15-year old ball boy for the event and remembers the intensity and extraordinary play of 35-year old Pancho Gonzales even as he hit with the team.

Arnie Brown, George Calkins and Ted Bursler led the charge to bring the event to Cherry Hills. “Arnie Brown was the real force behind getting this done,” says Koelbel. “He was a man ahead of his time. He believed in equality; he believed in everybody mattered who played tennis. They embraced what Arnie was doing and it ended up being a tremendous threshold event for the club and the area and for tennis in Colorado.”

Arthur Ashe returned to Colorado numerous times. In 1983 Allen Kiel, then president of the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation, drove Ashe up the driveway of Cherry Hills to a fundraising event. “Oh, Cherry Hills this is where I played my first Davis Cup tie”, remarked Ashe. Kiel, surprised, asked him how did that go? “They treated me great. I felt welcomed.”

Given Ashe’s acceptance by the team, and with full access to the club, the event had tremendous poignancy. In 2003 Kiel, then Chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup proposed to have plaques placed at every venue that hosted a Davis Cup match. In 2005, during the presentation at Cherry Hills, Dennis Ralston, 1963 Davis Cup teammate of Ashe, was tearful. Kiel, puzzled by his reaction, says Ralston told him, “This was Arthur’s first Davis Cup. That was a big thing Allen.”

Ricardo “Pancho” Gonzales opened the doors. Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe followed him through. Tennis, as a sport has an easy entry point, and isn’t confined to lessons at clubs. Charles “Hank” Henry, featured in the Breaking the Barriers Exhibit still plays in his 80’s. After seeing the USC team practice in his neighborhood at 17, Henry bought a tennis racket and started hitting balls against the wall of a garage. Pancho Gonzales’ son, Daniel, a coach at Littleton High School, remarked he didn’t play on a tennis court until he was 15. Up until then it was a garage door. The game changes on the court when you face an opponent other than yourself and you experience the lessons it offers. “You’re always going to be learning,” Pancho told Daniel. “As you get better the game gets tougher.”

With no formal tennis training, Pancho Gonzales was a relentless winner, and as a Mexican American representing America as a tennis player, he was conflicted about the injustice in decisions. African Americans featured in the film documentary “Crossing the Net”, fought to get onto the courts of Denver’s City Park. Both Ashe and Gonzales were advocates for public court play and bringing the game to everyone. One significant obstacle tennis players face is the perception of others. Gonzales came of age in tennis during the period of the zoot suit riots. Mastering opponents on the court, off the court he was sometimes perceived as temperamental. Gonzales was all about winning. “He liked being able to hit something as hard as he could without getting into trouble”, says his son Daniel, about his father.

Gonzales won his first Davis Cup in 1949 and at 41 was ranked #6 in the world. He is a testament to a game which more than any other provides life lessons. The benefits of playing tennis are often intangible. It teaches discipline and commitment and forces you to navigate elements of precision as well as randomness. “There are no problems, only answers on the court,” Gonzales once told his son. “Tennis is usually about who makes the best adjustment, not necessarily the best player.”

Top photo: United States Davis Cup Team and “Buddies”: Marty Riessen, Arthur Ashe, Dennis Ralston, Gene Scott;
Courtesy of Cherry Hills Country Club

Bottom photo: USTA Colorado Breaking the Barriers-Asian Connection: Representing one of the elements of nature, “fire” portrait of Akiji Koiwalakai, 2013 US. Open Wheel Tennis Championships Qualifier;
Courtesy of Barry Gutierrez
 

Veterans develop skills, confidence on court

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Nov. 10, 2015: Shawn Lawson never played tennis before. He didn’t know what to expect when he finally did. Now, the 35-year-old Denver resident doesn’t want to leave the court.

“I first started kind of like, ‘OK, it’s something new. I’ll try it out and give it a fair shot.’ Shoot, I fell in love with it,” Lawson said. “At first, though, it wiped me out. I hit the ball and it would just fly out of the court. After all summer long with the tennis clinic I really learned that I’m not an expert by any means, but I really learned a lot about tennis.”

Lawson, who served in the US Army from 1997-2009, was one of many veterans who participated in the Denver Veterans Administration Tennis Clinics, free to the veterans, thanks to a collaborative effort from the USTA Colorado, Denver VA, City Park Racquet Club in Denver, Denver Tennis Club and the Wounded Warrior Project in Colorado Springs, which provided the funding to pay for program director Mark Martinez Luna and the minimal tennis court fees. Racquets for All provided racquets for the players, and members of the Denver Tennis Club and Greenwood Tennis Club donated racquets, shoes and clothing. Most of the eight volunteers came from the Denver Tennis Club.

THE PURPOSE OF PROGRAM

“The purpose is to teach the veterans, initially, how to play holding the racquet, (teach) drills, how to hit a forehand, how to hit a backhand, overhead, how to serve,” said Debbie Yoder, former president of City Park Racquet Club and currently the club’s tournament director. “There are those who are more advanced and play a few more games. We play a game with them as if they’re playing a tournament so they know how to score and how to win a match. Most of them now are getting really familiar on how to play tennis and they want to hit more and more.”

Luna, who is a teaching pro at the Denver Tennis Club and formerly a senior teaching pro at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, said he’s found that veterans are latching onto the game of tennis. 

“What I’m finding out working with these vets is that a lot of their training and what they’ve gone through connects to the game of tennis, and it’s been a privilege and an honor to be part of the program,” Luna said.

SPECIAL FEELING

Luna said it’s special to see the veterans’ reaction when they hit the ball on the sweet spot of the racquet.

“I think it goes back to their training discipline. You get this beautiful feeling of hearing the sweet spot and the sound of the ball and having it go over the net and into the court,” Luna said. “I think they enjoy the challenge. It’s good medicine. They’re having to deal with these issues that we as a society never think about. Tennis is a sport where you have to completely focus and concentrate 100 percent on making the moment happen, and it takes away from all the other physical pain, mental pain and spiritual pain that they’re dealing with every day and every moment.”

Yoder said some of the veterans are self sufficient and live on their own, and some are still recuperating from their medical conditions. She said the program is a wonderful thing.

“I see their eyes light up when they have a good hit, and I really see the glow in their eyes. It’s one way of saying thank you for their service,” Yoder said. “I know that they probably haven’t been appreciated for all the services that they’ve done for their country. This is one way for them to get them incorporated into the community. This is a venue where they can come out and learn about tennis. It’s another way of getting tennis out there.”

MONTHLY CLINICS

From May through September on the second Wednesday of every month anywhere from 16 veterans participated in the clinic for 1½ to 2 hours at Lindsley Park in Denver, across from the Denver VA Medical Center. Being able to exercise and learn the sport of tennis is huge for veterans who have to deal with PTSD or other issues from their time of service.

Lawson and some of his fellow veterans also attended the Wounded Warrior Tennis Camp in San Diego in May.

The clinics at Lindsley Park were so successful and well received by the veterans that the plan is to hold them twice a month in 2016.

“For me it’s very beneficial. It gets me out of the house and gets me physically active and doing something,” Lawson said. “I could easily be a hermit, which is not good for me.”

Lawson had such a positive experience at the clinics that he’s looking online to play at tennis clubs in Denver.

Stephen Schutzler, recreation therapist for the Denver Veterans Administration Medical Center, said the age ranges of the veterans who participated in the clinics were from 25 to 85, men and women included.

“The veterans coming to the program allows them to work on improving their physical activity level as well as their emotion regulation, just another possible coping skill that they can use when dealing with stressors and other challenges that they have in their life,” Schutzler said. “They can actually enjoy a leisure activity that they might have never tried if we hadn’t had this clinic offered, which was really cool.”

FEELING INDEPENDENT

Schutzler said one of the things for recreation therapy at the Denver VA is getting the veterans independent into the community whether it’s through leisure activities, navigating public transportation or taking back control of their lives.

“It was kind of cool because USTA Colorado offered all the veterans tennis racquets, so we were able to give them tennis racquets and tennis balls,” Schutzler said. “Whatever neighborhood they’re in, they can go to a tennis court in their area, especially after we gave them a skill of this is how the game works.”

USTA Colorado’s involvement came about as a result of the successful tennis clinic it held with the Colorado Wheelchair Tennis Foundation on Veteran’s Day in 2014 at the Jewish Community Center in Denver.

Kristy Harris, Community Development Director for USTA Colorado, recalls how special it was to hear the stories of the veterans who attended that first play day last November.

“One had fought in the Korean War and was quite a tennis player in his day,” Harris said. “Once he started hitting the ball, I could see his anxiety level decrease and even a few smiles.”

Harris said another veteran brought his teenage son to the clinic and she watched father and son connect through the shared experience at the tennis clinic.

“They talked about continuing to learn and play together,” Harris said. “After the initial tennis clinic, it made sense to connect the Denver VA to a nearby community tennis association that would welcome the veterans and get them involved in tennis programs nearby. Since City Park Racquet Club was right down the street, it seemed natural to reach out to them.”

GIVING BACK TO VETERANS

Harris said Yoder didn’t hesitate to jump in and make it happen.

“She’s been an amazing connector between the Denver VA and the local tennis community and volunteers,” Harris said of Yoder. “As more people become involved, the overall program becomes more consistent and sustainable.”

Yoder said she’s learned a lot from seeing the veterans play, which also included two in-patient clinics at the Denver VA Medical Center.

“Giving back is just a little part of what I’ve learned,” said Yoder, a USTA Colorado board member. “To let them feel how to hold the racquet or hit the ball, it was so wonderful to see them happy and laughing, although they’re probably in pain. After a while they get involved and they’re happy. That’s the payback that we get from this.”

Luna said the veterans always tell him how much they enjoy being outside.

“They don’t have to get in the car and drive to the mountains. Some of them walk to the court, and it’s a positive moment,” Luna said. “It’s a be-here-now type of attitude. To take some of the frustrations of hitting the ball and having no negative consequences, that’s what I’m noticing. I’m very honored to be the catalyst to give them a tool that maybe makes their life more pleasant.”

Schutzler said he sat down with Harris and Yoder to hammer out a program that they thought would serve the veterans well.

“This was kind of our pilot year seeing what we needed to do and what we thought would work best for the veterans,” Schutzler said. “This year’s program was pretty amazing.”

MAKING AN IMPACT

Schutzler noticed improvement in the veterans’ play on the court from the start of the clinics to the end.

“Definitely. There was some definite improvement going on along with skill development,” Schutzler said. “It’s very nice to see them getting out there and doing it and enjoying something that you can do on your own as well. It helps with staying in shape, which obviously keeps us healthier and all kinds of good stuff.”

Harris said that tennis can make a huge impact in the life of a veteran who is trying to re-integrate into the community.

“It evens the playing field and no matter where people are coming from, the tennis court can be a safe place to exercise, laugh, learn, compete and make new friends,” Harris said. “This was certainly evident at each of the clinics this past year as relationships developed between the participants and Coach Luna, Debbie and the other volunteers who helped. These veterans sacrificed a lot for us and, upon their return home, it can be incredibly challenging for them individually and for their families. It’s so cool to see the eagerness of the veterans to participate and the positive response from the tennis volunteers who want to give back to those who have served us.” 

Nicole Alberico, the public affairs officer at the Denver VA Medical Center, said the tennis clinics are great opportunities for veterans.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Alberico, an Army veteran of 5½ years. “Anytime you can get a veteran out and active and focus on something else, it’s a part of taking care of our veterans.”

Luna said the veterans are very appreciative of what is being offered them.

“They’re very courteous in regards to their language and their behavior,” Luna said. “If I asked them to pick up balls compared to me doing my junior programs and sometimes adult programs, it’s simple, beautiful, instinctive things that they learn being in the service. That’s something I appreciate and they deserve it. The ultimate goal is to have a lot of people playing the game of tennis. My motto is Tennis Is For Everyone. For me to teach our veterans of America how to play this beautiful sport is fantastic and the crux of my career.”

 

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Breaking the Barriers exhibit returns to Denver

By Colorado Tennis Association staff

Inspired by the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Breaking the Barriers exhibit, USTA Colorado partners with the Denver Public Library to display their successful three-part portrait series in the exquisite Gates Reading Room, which houses the Colorado Western History and Genealogy research collections. The Breaking the Barriers Portrait Series featuring thirty-seven (37) portraits will be on exhibit for a three-month period, October through December. 

Building awareness through education, inspiring action through art, these unique portraits celebrate the accomplishments of diverse tennis pioneers, contributors and rising stars in Colorado. The portraits were produced by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Barry Gutierrez.  

Additional activities at the main branch will include, a screening of Crossing the Net: Denver City Park and The Black Tennis Experience from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 26, and a Photographer’s Workshop with Barry Gutierrez from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov 16.

For more information about celebrating diversity in tennis, go to COLORADOTENNIS.com.

 

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USTA Colorado’s Special Olympics Unified Relay


By Colorado Tennis Association staff

Spec_Oly_2USTA Colorado sponsored a 15-member team for the Unified Relay Across America that came through Denver on Friday, June 26. Members of the team included USTA Colorado staff and volunteers along with Special Olympics Colorado tennis players and coaches.  

A commemorative torch was received due to the additional donations from USTA Colorado staff and volunteers that allowed them to reach the $1,500 sponsorship level.  

"We were proud to support Colorado tennis players, Nathan Knepper and Julian Hall, who are both members of the 16 player US Tennis Team who competed in Los Angeles at the World Games on July 25 through Aug. 2," said USTA Colorado staff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Utah Tennis Association celebrates LGBT Pride at annual SLC festival

By Utah Tennis Association staff

Utah Tennis Association (UTA) hosted a booth at the LGBT Pride Festival over the weekend of June 6-7.

Pride Festival is the second largest event in Salt Lake City, second only to the Days of ’47 Celebration. Over 35,000 people attend the parade and wander the festival grounds to celebrate diversity and acceptance in their community.

LGBT_Big_Ball1This year, for the first time, UTA had a booth on the fairgrounds. In our booth, we let people in the community know about our leagues, tournaments, junior programs, Tennis On Campus, wheelchair tennis, and our new LGBT Friends and Family Social scheduled for Saturday, June 27.

"Tennis is a sport for everyone, and we were so happy to meet over 500 people personally during the two days we hosted our booth," said UTA staff. "With the use of giant tennis racquets and a giant tennis ball, hundreds of people in the fairground wandered over to talk to us and have their picture taken with the giant racquets.

"The atmosphere was extremely friendly, with so many people excited to find out that there is someone in the community that can help them connect back to tennis," staff members said. "Many people had played when they were younger, and didn’t know leagues existed now for them. Parents were excited to see the small racquets and foam balls for kids."

Organizers say the Pride Festival was an incredible experience for UTA.

"We can’t wait for our social on June 27 and to be part of the fun again next year."

 

Colo_Chang"God, family, friends and tennis!"

By Colorado Tennis Association staff

Balancing work and a baby is a handful for anyone. But for Christine Chang, a former morning anchor for Channel 7 news, the chaotic routine which included extremely early mornings is tiring but joyful. Now if she can just find a little time to hit some balls!

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Christine graduated from Northwestern State University. She had played tennis in her life, but after she took lessons from Denver Tennis Club Head Tennis Pro Damon Gillette, tennis would become the theme song in her life.

Married to Damon for a year and with 9½ month old Rylan at her side, Christine couldn’t feel more blessed about her life, and her joy is contagious.  

“It’s God, family, friends and tennis,” Christine says about her life of love on and off the court. “I still have the highest respect for Damon on the court as a professional and the work he puts in coaching.”

Tennis is a common bond that brings them both joy.

“We got to hit for 45 minutes the other day when Rylan was in his car seat/stroller on the court,” she said of the precious moment in time. Down the road Christine knows she'll have time to get back onto the court. Right now, her life is just right.

A member of the Asian American Journalists Association, Christine promotes tennis through her channels when given the opportunity. She feels that tennis offers people of all ages and walks of life much more than a sport.

“Tennis teaches you to make decisions,” she said, adding that tennis gives the player an improved ability to strategize, think about the consequences of their shots, plan ahead, and maintain focus. “It’s also a great way to meditate and get rid of daily stress.”

Christine wants to keep tennis accessible to everyone from all backgrounds, so she makes sure the spotlight is on tennis whenever possible — a passion that has earned her the  2014 USTA Colorado's Media Excellence Award.

“Many people still view tennis the way they view golf — a sport for country club kids,” she said.

Christine hopes to raise awareness for programs like Racquets for All (which provides equipment to those in need) and that courts and coaching are available to everyone regardless of income level.

“So many young people don’t think of tennis as an option and go into traditional sports like soccer and baseball, but tennis is something they should consider. So many lessons on a tennis court can apply in life.”

 

Hard work and dedication paying off for Mia Oliver

Mia_Oliver_MWBy Colorado Tennis Association staff

The combination of hard work and intelligence often breeds success.  

Add in the fact that 13 year-old Mia Oliver is also a wonderful young person helps you understand why she’s achieving her goals both on and off the tennis court.

“I loved tennis immediately and knew that I wanted to keep playing,” she said of tennis, one of the first sports she’d ever tried.  

Included in the¡Vive El Tenis! Breaking the Barriers Series for Hispanic Heritage month, Mia is proud to help celebrate her Hispanic heritage. A 4.0 student at Denver Center of International Studies with a particular interest in history and science, she was introduced to tennis around the age of 7 through junior camps at Berkeley Park and Meadow Creek Tennis & Fitness.

Recognized as having the combination of physical and mental aptitude to advance, she was invited to USTA Colorado's Star Search Program and in 2014, she helped her Junior Team Tennis win the Girl’s 18s Colorado State Championship.  

A strong sense of self and desire to excel are innate qualities of the young netter.

“Mia is a competitive person, but in a good way,” her mother, Carrie explains. “We [Carrie and her husband, Stephen] always told her this was her deal. We didn’t want to push her.” (Not that pushing is necessary.)

Mia has a maturity beyond her years and is humble about her achievements. She is realistic of the hard work and dedication it will take to become a top competitive player.

“My short term goal is to just keep improving,” she said of her on-court ambitions, “but ultimately I want to get a scholarship in tennis.”  

Admiring the fierce play of Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, Mia is most proud of her backhand, and she's working on getting her second serve to be more consistent. She knows staying in shape and eating healthy are vital components to being her best on the court. Good sportsmanship on the court is also important to Mia, who understands that she is a role model for younger players.

It's that type of attitude and commitment that has earned Mia the 2014 USTA Colorado Charlie & Ira Brown Award for junior sportsmanship.

Mia has a healthy appreciation for what tennis can bring in terms of value to herself, and to all of those people within her community. Mia likes to volunteer and has volunteered for several “Learn to Play Days,” in the Denver area as her way to give back.  

Mia’s advice to younger players would be simple.

“I would tell them that in life you have to keep trying really hard at things. But love what you do, too.”

 

Mannion a champion off, now on the court

Mannion_400By Tom Fasano,
Colorado Tennis Association

Matt Mannion was never a fan of the two-bounce approach.

When Matt began playing tennis at the age of 10, he was given the option of allowing the ball to bounce twice before hitting it due to a rare condition he was born with called arthrogryposis, which limits his mobility due to stiff joints in his hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and feet.

“Every once in a while my hips will hurt, but otherwise I’m not in pain at all,” Matt said.

Leanne Palmisano, director of tennis and the tennis pro at Crestmoor Community Association in Denver, called the other local tennis clubs and instituted the two-bounce approach for Mannion. Needless to say, Matt didn’t like it from the get-go.

“I never used that rule. I didn’t like it,” said Matt, a senior at Bishop Machebeuf High School in Denver and the son of Julie and George Mannion. “I wanted to be treated like everyone else. They encouraged me to do it, but I never did it. I grew out of that rule.”

A Determined Kid
Palmisano, who has been working at Crestmoor for 25 years, said Matt was full of determination from the start.

“He’s turned into a pretty decent tennis player,” Palmisano said. “He has a really good forehand. He has a great serve. Everything I’d asked of the other kids I asked of him. I made him run. I made him do the sprints. He just went for it, and he never asked for any special favors, that’s for sure.”

Palmisano said Matt has taught her and other kids a lot when it comes to fighting through obstacles.

“He’s an incredible kid,” Palmisano said. “I know he’s taught all the other kids at Crestmoor a lot. I admire him. I believe tennis gave him a lot of self-confidence, even though he struggled. He’s very competitive and wants to win the right way. He never has taken any kind of hand out at all. He has two great parents that have always treated him just like anyone else and are very supportive in everything that Matt’s wanted to do. He’s worked hard at it as well.”

Matt, 17, a four-year letter winner in doubles at Bishop Machebeuf (enrollment 370 students), said tennis became a favorite sport of his when he started getting pretty good at it. 

“I can get around just like everyone else. I’m just not as fast as everyone else,” Matt said. 

Matt, who has also lettered three times in lacrosse at Bishop Machebeuf and plans to play the sport in the spring, said he likes to be a part of a team. This past summer, Matt’s Colorado Junior Team Tennis squad won state in its division.

“It was pretty cool. We got a trophy,” Matt said. “I can say I’m a state champion in something.”

Matt’s strong serve is the best part of his game.

“I think it came pretty naturally actually. At first it wasn’t too good, and then I started watching pro tennis and I kind of picked up some stuff from there and it got a lot better,” Matt said. “It’s the strongest part of my tennis game, for sure.”

Don't Say "Can't"

Matt’s mother, Julie, lives by the motto of “Don’t Say Can’t.”

“Since I was little, my mom has the saying of ‘don’t say can’t’ because I was saying it all the time,” Matt said. “Then I started not to say it and I started doing a lot more things like playing tennis, playing lacrosse, snowboarding and swimming and all that stuff. I really like snowboarding. I’m really fast.”

Julie said with tennis being a team sport as well as an individual sport, Matt was able to play a part in any team success, especially during the Colorado Junior Team Tennis  summer league.

“Being able to be a part of the team was instrumental,” Julie said. “He has some great kids that follow him and support him, and never ever not want to be his partner. They actually choose him to be his partner in tennis. Anybody can play the game. It’s just having the right people around you, the right coaches and the right supporters. He has a great father who supports him. The kids around him swarm to him. I have never had a kid say, ‘I don’t want him to be my doubles partner.’ Tennis has been so great.”

Matt, who would like to attend Colorado State University and study business finance next year, has undergone multiple surgeries throughout the years, but the bright spot with his condition is that he can opt for hip replacement surgery when he stops growing which will eliminate the pain he now has in his hips.

“He had eight surgeries in the first three years of his life,” Julie said. “He was in a body cast for three months.”

A Great Support System

Matt said his support system of family and friends and coaches, including his summer tennis coach Brett Champion at Crestmoor Community Association, have helped him through the years.

“My high school coaches taught me different things I can do with my serve,” Matt said. “They made it faster and they put more spin on it. My mom just kept pushing me to do all these things. My aunts are very supportive of what I do, and my friends like that I can do these things.”

Champion said it was three years of working together in private lessons before he was comfortable enough to play on a team.

“I offered him the second bounce, but he never really utilized it,” Champion said. “He’s always played doubles and he’s never had a double bounce. I didn’t think he’d ever play competitively, but when he finally did I was so excited. I hope he continues to reach for his goals.”

Bishop Machebeuf athletic director Eddie Kane said Matt is one of those kids who always shows up for practice, is always on time and is dedicated to his team.

“He really can’t move that well, but he still goes out and attempts to do the running drills,” Kane said. “He just tries to do everything that the other kids are doing. He’s always been a team player. I never heard of him being a problem on the team or getting upset with the coach.”

Great Skills

Kane said Matt has great skills in tennis and lacrosse.

“If the tennis ball comes in his hitting zone or the lacrosse ball comes right to his stick, he can do with it what he wants to do with it,” Kane said. “He just can’t always do the physical part to get to the right place at the right time.”

Kane said Matt is treated like one of the normal guys.

“I think the kids do notice like, ‘Hey, Matt’s working hard. We can work hard as well,’ ” Kane said. “There was a tennis match I took them to up at Weld Central where it came down to a third-set tiebreaker,” Kane said. “The other kid hit a shot right to Matt and Matt just slammed away a forehand to win the match. There were a bunch of parents from the other school that were watching and were like, ‘Wow.’ That was a nice little moment of glory for him where he was kind of the hero of the match.”

Julie said seven years ago Champion told her to put Matt out on the court.

“She was instrumental in coming to me and saying, ‘Get him out there,’ ” Julie said. “Brett and Leanne really helped him thrive in that sport.”

Matt said tennis has made a big difference in his life.

“I think it’s transformed me into a better person. Ever since I started playing tennis, I’m a little happier and stronger,” Matt said. “I love tennis. It’s great. I’ll play tennis until I physically can’t anymore.”

 

Idaho Wheelchair Tennis Association helps with church Halloween festival

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Toni-Shea Sinclair (left), USTA Intermountain Tennis Service Representative, and Paul Bradley, Idaho Wheelchair Tennis Association President

By Mike Harvey,
Idaho Tennis Association
Executive Director

Paul Bradley, Idaho Wheelchair Tennis Association president, and Toni Sinclair, USTA Intermountain Idaho Tennis Service Representative, participated in a Vertical Boise Church Halloween festival at Sunset Park in Boise on Oct. 25.

With some financial support and equipment from Idaho Tennis Association, Bradley and Sinclair demonstrated how to use Tennis is Elementary nets, balls and racquets to kids and parents attending the Trunk-or-Treat.

Children dressed up for Halloween and went from one car to the next to trick-or-treat in a safe environment. The trunks of cars were decorated and filled with candy for kids to visit. Paul and Toni set up two courts next to their car for kids and parents to play tennis. In addition, Paul handed out tennis ballsfor kids to keep.

The audience included refugee families, church members and many others from diverse backgrounds. Hundreds of people visited the IWTA car and courts. Paul and Toni were also both wearing Tennis is Elementary shirts which drew interest from to nearby elementary schools to bring the program to those schools.

 

Racquets for All, Subaru changing lives one racquet at a time


Denver_Indian_Center___Subaru_400Once you’ve put a racquet in the hands of a child and engaged them in tennis, you’ve altered a life.

It’s as simple as that.

Thanks in part to Subaru of America, Official Vehicle of USTA Colorado, youth at the Denver Indian Center are experiencing tennis first hand this summer as a part of the Center’s eight-week summer camp program.

Subaru donated forty new racquets — sized just right for kids — to the Center.

“It was terrific seeing the kids have such a great time and being exposed to a wonderful sport,” said Tony Graziano, Regional Vice President of Subaru of America, Inc. “Subaru is proud to play a small role in getting tennis racquets in the hands of kids throughout Colorado,” he went on to say.

In 2013, Subaru donated 400 new youth racquets to the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation’s Racquets for All program and then followed things up with more this year as part of their continued partnership with USTA Colorado.

Through Racquets for All, equipment is disbursed to those in need.

“The racquet donation means a lot to us,” said April Tsosie, Youth Program Coordinator at the Denver Indian Center (read more about April in HighFIVE, p16). “A lot of times, we get things donated that are broken or used, so to have that donation of new racquets shows all of the kids that they are valued here – that there’s an investment in them and their interest in tennis,” she went on to say. And, interest in tennis, which is not a traditional sport in the Native American culture, is growing.

“There is a group of young boys who go play tennis on a regular basis now. They play for hours,” said Tsosie.

Subaru’s generosity opens the door for future tennis programing at the Denver Indian Center. Tsosie is looking at the possibility of getting the Elders out to play with the youth, which she sees as a fantastic opportunity for the young and old to interact with one another.

“We’re delighted to see tennis taking off at the Denver Indian Center,” said Fritz Garger, USTA Colorado executive director. “Our staff and Diversity and Inclusion committee members have collaborated to foster the type of tennis programming we’re seeing at the Center. We’ve had ties to the Native American community and to see this come to fruition like it is at the Center is incredible. It’s great to see things developing in this way. Thanks are in order for a host of people who care about the kids and the community in general.”

 

The power of a legacy


By Doug McPherson

Dan_400_2Legacies are real. They thrust humans forward with life lessons. They make tangible differences in lives every day. And Colorado tennis players and fans don’t have far to look to find a perfect example of this truth: Dan Gonzalez, a Highlands Ranch tennis instructor and the son of former world number one tennis great Pancho Gonzalez.

Pancho planted the seed of his legacy with Dan in the spring of 1984 after the finals of the Alan King Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was a poignant father-son moment.

“It was the last year I was going to work the tournament and dad sat me down on center court and asked me what my plans were. I didn’t really have a plan and told him that. Then he said this: ‘Danny, I’m 56-years-old, I was the best at what I did, and maybe the best ever, but I’m still learning things in this game. No matter what you do, never stop learning.’”

Not a bad foundation for a legacy.

“The point for me was that he was this man who achieved the highest level of his profession but he still saw he could learn more,” Gonzalez says.  

Not surprisingly, Dan eventually chose to devote his life to tennis. But not just tennis, and not just teaching tennis. But taking what his dad taught him that day and using tennis as a tool to show kids they too should never stop learning and at the same time improve their lives.

Gonzalez says when his dad died in 1995, he “took a hard look” at his life.

“I’d been out of tennis for about 10 years but I’d never stopped playing. In looking back, I came to realize that tennis was so much more than just a game. It could open doors for juniors, help them further their education,” Gonzalez says.

From that point on he wasted little time bringing Pancho’s legacy to life.

In 1996, he took on the co-chair slot of the USTA Intermountain Section Minority Participation Committee to boost diversity outreach and player development programs.  There he helped develop Star Search, a program to identify and nurture tennis skills among minority pre-teens. The program still exists today, now offered by USTA Colorado in partnership with Denver Parks & Recreation.

He also worked with the Breaking the Barriers 2.0 ¡Vive el Tenis! project that celebrates Latino pioneers, contributors and rising stars. This past September, the ¡Vive el Tenis! exhibit from the International Tennis Hall of Fame made its Colorado debut. The exhibit explores the paths of tennis from Europe to United States, Central and South America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

And two years ago, Gonzalez helped start the Richard Pancho Gonzalez Youth Foundation that works to build kids’ academic pursuit and character through tennis.

“I know dad would have loved that we started this foundation,” Gonzalez says. “To share my dad’s story of perseverance, dedication and accomplishments with today’s youth can only show them that dreams can come true. He loved the kids and the game. Dad understood what tennis did for him and to give back was easy for him. Actually, he felt it was a privilege to give back.”

Gonzalez pauses then adds. “You know, being involved over the years with inner cities and minorities, getting into the communities, has been fun and rewarding. I’ve come to learn that to have helped just one kid is rewarding. But to possibly have helped many just feels that much better and you really can’t put a price on that.”

 

USTA Colorado co-hosts national exhibit

Colorado_400The United States Tennis Association (USTA) Colorado District, the Denver Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships, Denver Parks and Recreation and the Denver Latino Commission have partnered for the Colorado premiere of  Breaking the Barriers 2.0. – Vive el Tenis Exhibit and Portrait Series.

Pulitzer prize-winning local photographer, Barry Gutierrez will debut a collection of portraits illustrating the cultural theme of familia. The portrait series will accompany the national traveling exhibit ¡Vive El Tenis!: Common Threads Different Peoples, created by the International Tennis Hall of Fame Hall of Fame & Museum located in Rhode Island. ¡Vive el Tenis! explores the growth of tennis as a popular sport throughout Mexico, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. The exhibit and portrait series are FREE and open to the public Sept. 2-30 at the Webb Municipal Building Atrium in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Using tennis as a backdrop, this unique exhibit highlights excellence, diversity and inclusion and health and wellness.  “USTA Colorado is committed to diversity and inclusion by making tennis accessible to diverse and under-served communities,” says Paula McClain, USTA Colorado marketing and diversity director. “Our goal is to inspire a new generation of tennis players and to encourage a healthy, fun family activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.”

Denver Agency for Human Rights & Community Partnerships Derek Okubo, executive director says, “We are proud to feature the Vive el Tenis exhibit at the Webb Building to reflect culture diversity and further enhance our relationship between Denver and the Latino community,” An umbrella organization, the agency works on issues addressing minorities of race/ethnicity, religion, gender and disabilities.

At the invitation-only VIP Reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 10, author and Third District Utah Juvenile Court Judge, the Honorable Andrew Valdez will be the guest speaker sharing his personal experience on how tennis literally changed his life, and exposed him to all the core values that one needs to lead a productive life. Judge Valdez serves as a Director at Large on the USTA Board of Directors. Also at the reception, a proclamation from Mayor Michael B. Hancock will be read.

As a follow up to the highly successful 2011“Breaking the Barriers,” exhibit honoring African American achievements in tennis, Breaking the Barriers 2.0 featured The Asian Connection exhibit this past May at DIA’s Art & Culture Gallery during Asian Heritage Month. Vive el Tenis, the third installment will celebrate Latino tennis pioneers, contributors and rising stars.

About United Tennis Association (USTA) Colorado District
Founded in 1955, USTA Colorado is a district affiliate of the United States Tennis Association, and the governing body of tennis in Colorado. Its mission is to promote and develop the growth of tennis in Colorado, coordinating recreational and competitive tennis programs for players of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. A not-for-profit organization with more than 22,000 members, USTA Colorado invests 100 percent of its proceeds in growing the game.

About International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum
Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide, and enshrining tennis heroes and heroines with the highest honor in the sport of tennis- induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is located in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on a seven-acre property that features an extensive museum chronicling the history of the sport and honoring the 240 Hall of Famers; 13 grass tennis courts and an indoor tennis courts that are open to the public and to a club membership; a rare Court Tennis facility; and an historic 295-seat theatre. Annually in July, the venue hosts the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships for the Van Alen Cup, an ATP World Tour event.

About Denver Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships
The agency creates opportunities for innovation to take root in local government and throughout the community to impact local challenges. HRCP is the model of inclusiveness, recognizing that diverse perspectives, skills and resources strengthen the foundation for lasting solutions. Our mission is to proactively protect human rights, build capacities, and strengthen connections that result in stronger relationships in the community through collaboration, communication and advocacy.

About Denver Parks & Recreation – CityWide Sports
Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) facilities are unrivaled in the Rocky Mountain West. The DPR system spans over a 146-year history, from the first park created in 1868 to nearly 20,000 acres of urban parks and mountain parkland today. Within the city limits, Denver’s park system embraces nearly 6,000 acres of “traditional” parks, parkways and urban natural areas. DPR’s CityWide Sports offers a wide variety of youth and adult sports programs. Our programs take place at a variety of recreation centers and sports fields throughout metro Denver. We welcome teams as well as individual players. Compete and play like a kid, again.

Idaho teams play to help Northwest Children's Home

ETC_Syringa_House_TeamEagle Tennis Center, an Idaho USTA organization member, sponsored two teams for the Sryinga House Tennis Challenge, a fundraiser for the Sryinga House Girls Home in Boise.

Northwest Children's Home offers programs, services and efforts aimed at helping abused, neglected and abandoned boys and girls become productive and caring citizens.

"When our children succeed, our communities are stronger and more successful," said Rod Wilson, executive director. "Our children receive the caring and support that enables them to overcome the hurt and sorrow that offered them little hope of a happy childhood and a successful future. While getting individualized care at Northwest Children’s Home, our kids learn what it’s like to feel good, healthy and safe. Our boys and girls learn tomorrow brings new opportunities and the future is not filled with darkness and despair."

"Julene Reed, the tournament director for this event, does an awesome job," said Mike Harvey, Idaho Tennis Association's executive director. "Juleen and Nan Jacobsen (from Eagle Tennis Center) have also been instrumental in forming teams for IdTA events including our recent Junior Team Tennis event in Nampa."

"To provide specialized care and education for up to 92 teenagers and adolescents requires a steadfast commitment,"  Wilson added. "Thanks to our staff, volunteer Board of Directors and our many generous supporters who share our mission and values, Northwest Children’s Home…and the children we serve, have bright futures ahead."

For more information on the Northwest Children's Home 8th annual tournament, visit http://www.northwestchildrenshome.org/News/EventsSyringaHouseProgram/TennisChallenge/?tabid/181/Default.aspx.

 

Denver Indian Center Youth Program Coordinator Features Tennis at Summer Camp


New Mexico-raised April Tsosie knows how to connect with kids. Educated at the Art Institute of Chicago and receiving degrees in both Child Psychology and Fine Arts, her ability to bring well-rounded programming to the Denver Indian Center makes her a true gift to the community. Learning from her first job as Youth Program Coordinator at the Indian Center in Chicago, she brought to Denver the experience and drive needed to create and sustain a quality center.

Denver_Indian_Center_Camp_Tennis_OfferingNestled in one of the lowest income neighborhoods in Denver, April runs the youth program, which provides the more than 330 5-18 year old participants tutoring, homework help, and a computer lab with internet access. “Many of these kids do not have a computer at home,” she explains of the importance of the resources offered. She also explains that the Center-provided meals are the only meals some of the kids are receiving.

Kids from all over the metro area — including Denver, Arapahoe and Adams counties — visit the Denver Indian Center. In the summer, the Center runs summer camps, and this year 68 participants had a chance to try various activities including tennis. Although April was never a tennis player, she felt that it would be a good addition to the other sports being offered. It was such a hit, that today they have to cap the summer camp at 40 kids, basically for safety reasons. It’s one reason the Center is always looking for a strong volunteer base to help with the programs being offered.

“Tennis was definitely of interest to many of the kids,” she said, thrilled at the support she received from USTA Colorado and donations from Subaru via the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation. “Some of the kids exposed to tennis are still playing, which is so exciting,” she said of the first year program.

Everything in the program is free for the kids who want to participate, and kids can be from any background.

“For many of the kids here, there is little to no family support,” she explained, “and we can’t necessarily change the environment.”

That’s why for this center the emphasis is on making the most of the time they have with the kids and giving them exposure to as many opportunities as they can.

“Tennis hasn’t traditionally been a sport that these young people could access,” April said of the opportunity to put racquets in hand and have the support of volunteers. She also said that they were fortunate to have Americorps Vista volunteers this year who help with everything from their dance classes, to the food banks. “We were so lucky to get the support of the Vista volunteers,” April said.

 

MAY, 2014

ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

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Breaking the Barriers 2.0 -- The Asian Connection

MARCH, 2014

WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH

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Christian Thompson named head coach of DU women's tennis

NOVEMBER, 2013

AMERICAN INDIAN HERITAGE MONTH

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Raven Dick goes from NJTL chapter to varsity college tennis

OCTOBER, 2013

DISABILITY AWARENESS MONTH

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Idaho Wheelchair Tennis Association has a banner year

 

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Adult Leagues Adult Tournaments Junior Tournaments Jr. Team Tennis Learn more

 

What's within you is stronger than what's in your way

 

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October is Disability Awareness Month

 

SEPTEMBER, 2013

LATINO HERITAGE MONTH

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Denver director passionate about youth services

 

ONGOING PROGRAMS

 

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Somalia refugees experience tennis in Salt Lake City

 

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Tennis: A universal language

 
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