• Gainesville Receives $5,750 Tennis Grant from USTA Florida



    Gainesville Area Community Tennis Association (GACTA) has been granted $5,750 through the United States Tennis Association-Florida (USTA Florida) “Share the Love” initiative for an extended-day tennis program in Alachua County elementary schools, and an adaptive tennis program for special-needs children. Both programs are targeted to combat obesity and improve the health of children in the region.

    The funding will be used for tennis teacher stipends for both programs, and for USTA 10 and Under Tennis equipment.“The purpose of this program is to provide a healthy academic opportunity to a diverse group of children in the Alachua County schools’ Extended Day Enrichment Program, which currently has an enrollment of over 3,000 children,” says Anne Koterba, a USTA Gainesville community representative who initiated the grant application. “We are also seeking to introduce the sport of tennis to special-needs children in the Gainesville and Alachua County area.”

    A pilot program coordinated by Koterba and other tennis activists at the Jonesville Tennis Center in Gainesville catered to the substantial population of children in the area with autism, Down’s Syndrome and a variety of other conditions. The group looks to continue the program, utilizing the scaled-down USTA 10 and Under Tennis equipment which provides a more successful and enjoyable tennis experience for children.

    The USTA 10 and Under Tennis format is designed for children featuring smaller court sizes, racquet sizes, foam and decompressed balls, a simple scoring system, and net heights adjusted to ease kids into the sport. Similar mini-tennis formats have long been popular in Europe, where current stars such as Roger Federer, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters first learned the game with age-adjusted racquets, balls and court sizes. To see a video of 10 and Under Tennis in action go to: http://10andundertennis.usta.com

    “Many school children in our community are facing a number of challenges to their long-term well-being, including obesity, as approximately one-third of school children in our county are overweight or obese,” Koterba says. “USTA Florida, by providing funding to projects like these, can make a difference in our community by helping us introduce tennis, a potentially life-long sport, to children of all abilities and socio-economic backgrounds.”

    In 2011 the GACTA planned to expand the extended-day tennis programs from eight to 12 elementary schools, with qualified tennis teachers overseeing each school, (but was actually able to extend the program to include all the elementary schools in Alachua County). Partners in the program include the Alachua County School District, the Alachua County Choices Program, the Gainesville Area Community Tennis Association, the University of Florida and the Jonesville Tennis Center.

    USTA Florida annually directs 90% of member dollars back into the community to support tennis programs and projects throughout Florida. USTA Florida’s Share the Love grant program helps fund tennis programs and projects throughout Florida communities during challenging economic times. Funding priorities include 10 and Under Tennis and Jr. Team Tennis (coordinator training, start-up, etc.), public facility funding (schools, parks, conversion to permanent 10 and Under courts, etc.), community tennis awareness (innovative pro-active start-ups, program expansion), school programs and senior tennis programs/projects.

    “This is another great example of tennis partnerships in Gainesville between the Gainesville Area Community Tennis Association, the Jonesville Tennis Center, and others that we are proud to support with funding to benefit area children,” said USTA Florida Associate Executive Director, Play Tennis Division, Andy McFarland. “It is with USTA membership dollars from adult and junior tennis players across the state of Florida that we are able to offer program grants and give back to communities like these.”

    Share the Love grant applications are still being accepted by USTA Florida at www.USTASharetheLove.com, or questions can be e-mailed to grants@nullflorida.usta.com. For more information on the 10-and-Under Tennis play format in Florida, go towww.ustaflorida.com.

    For more information on the Gainesville program, contact Anne Koterba at akoterba@nullaol.com, or go to www.gainesvilletennis.com

  • GACTA Community Tennis Programming

    SE Boys and Girls Club Tennis (2008)

    In 2008, GACTA launched a new tennis program at the McPherson Recreation Center (1717 SE 15th Street) for members of the SE Boys & Girls Club. Sessions were held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., from February to end of April. We also expanded the program to the Woodlawn Unit of the Boys & Girls Club (located at 331 SE 20th Place, about one mile west of McPherson), with sessions on their outdoor basketball courts from 3 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the same days. We purchased some junior racquets for this program, and obtained some donated racquets and tennis balls. There were over 30 participants at McPherson, with an additional 20 participants at the Woodland Unit. Our volunteers had a wonderful time with this terrific bunch of kids. A big thank you goes to all our volunteers: John Bennett, Darla Chmiel, Ron Chmiel, Alice Criner, Sandy LeVeen, Marie Mayer, Bobbie Mehan, Bonnie O’Brien, Mike Oransky, Christine Shurtleff, Libby Smith, and Mike Weiss.

    SE Boys and Girls Club Tennis

    Extended Day Tennis Program in Alachua County Elementary Schools (2009-2011)

    The Extended Day Enrichment Tennis Program was initially funded as a pilot project by GACTA, and was begun in three local elementary schools during the spring of 2009. It was designed to test the theory that if qualified tennis teachers are paid to actually teach the after-school programs, rather than rely on school personnel to do this, the program will be far more successful in introducing young children to tennis. The tennis teacher would be in a better position to recruit the most interested students into additional tennis activities, such as Junior Team Tennis. Three area schools participated in the program during the spring semester, and the students and after school personnel uniformly raved about its value.

    A USTA Recreational Tennis grant was awarded to GACTA during the summer of 2009, to expand the EDEP tennis program from three to ten elementary schools during the 2009-2010 school year.

    EDEP Tennis Program at Rawlings

    For the 2010-2011 school year, GACTA received a USTA Florida Share the Love grant to continue our EDEP tennis program. Also this year, the Alachua County Choices program signed on as a partner, to encourage children to participate in tennis as a healthy lifestyle choice. The county’s participation has allowed the after school tennis program to expand to almost all the elementary schools in the county, serving around 300 children.

    Sadly, CHOICES pulled their funding of the program at the last minute, so this program did not continue through the 2011-2012 school year.

    Junior Competitive Tennis Mentoring (2009-2010)

    This pilot program received initial funding from The GACTA, and was begun June, 2009. The program consisted of a “pay it back” system in which each junior player was assigned a mentee and a mentor. In return for weekly hitting sessions with his/her mentee, the player was entitled to a free session with his/her mentor, usually a college player or coach, who was reimbursed for their time by the program. The mentoring program received excellent reviews from the participants, parents, and coaches. As tennis tends to be an individual sport, we felt there was a need for junior competitive tennis players to be encouraged to become a part of the tennis community as a whole. Encouraging sportsmanship and good court behavior are important in the development of the junior player, and they can benefit greatly from being placed in the position of being responsible and a role model to younger, less-experienced kids. In addition, the mentee can benefit greatly by receiving affordable hitting time with a more experienced player.

    Adaptive Tennis (2010-2011)

    Free adaptive tennis open houses have been offered at Jonesville Tennis Center since spring, 2010. They are open to children of all ages and all abilities. A Share the Love grant from USTA Florida and volunteers from the tennis community (thank you Cribb family and Johnny Johnston!) and UF have allowed this valuable program to continue.

    Adaptive Tennis Open House at JTC

    Tennis and Tutoring

    With the opening of the Jonesville Tennis Center, we have an opportunity to reach out to the children of our community in great need of productive after-school activities. Although there is a common perception that the residents of Jonesville and the area west of I-75 in general are affluent and therefore not in need of subsidized after-school programming for their children, this is simply not true. There is a significant population of disadvantaged children who definitely need help. With this program, not only can we introduce tennis to a group of children who might not be familiar with it, we can provide an environment where they can receive help with their school work as well.

  • Caleb’s Pitch Charity Tennis Tournament

    Caleb’s Pitch, Inc. is a 501c3 (non-profit) organization in Gainesville, Florida dedicated to providing support and enjoyable experiences for children receiving care for life-threatening medical conditions. The majority of these experiences involve patients and their families interacting with various athletic teams at the University of Florida. Other experiences include providing children with the opportunity to create paintings through syringe art. Caleb’s Pitch also provides meals and other services to the Ronald McDonald House of Gainesville.

    The next Caleb’s Pitch Tennis Tournament is scheduled for January 7-9, 2011 at the Jonesville Tennis Center. This date has been chosen to work around the FTL schedule as well as USTA sectionals for combo leagues.

    For more information on the tournament, and to register, see: