• 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

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