Originally Published: May 2, 2007 7:59 p.m.
It doesn't matter what sport or other type of endeavor you grew up loving, you now know as an adult that at least one person took the time to reach out and help you achieve that love and those special talents.
They were your mentors.
Some mentors are there physically and are very hands on. Others organize behind the scenes. Still more donate money or raise awareness to help programs or sponsor children, giving an opportunity that many would never receive otherwise.
And what does this do for our children? It inspires. It educates and creates a decent social life. It improves grades and builds self-esteem and character. It instills success with a no-quit attitude, and helps deal with learning solid principles of life.
Try to think back to that special person or program that helped guide your life in a manner that today makes you grateful.
For me, it was two good parents, a grandfather who made me feel special, and a grandmother who purchased eight active tennis clinics in the big city of Columbus. A loose-knit tennis association that nurtured juniors with clinics and match play during the summer, and organized local tennis tournaments. A sports editor who played up the results, and an athletic director open mined enough to let us start a high school tennis team.
But looking back, it fell a bit short. I would love to have played college tennis, but didn't really know how to go about it. No one enlightened or encouraged me in that direction, thus I didn't see the potential.
I look at our community and especially the tennis aspect of what we have to offer and feel it's come a long way, but still has much room to improve.
Recently the Prescott Unified School District and the City of Prescott rebuilt the six courts at Prescott High School. The four courts at the Armory have undergone similar refinements. And the six courts at Yavapai College are in reasonable shape. Thus our tennis facilities are in good order.
Our tennis programs are better than most towns and cities, yet when it comes to programs for juniors we are still lacking. Our local tennis organizations perform many functions, but they currently don't reach out and nurture kids from the ages of 5 to 18 in any progressive manner.
We are without a good organizational effort in helping our youth learn the game. It somewhat flounders from year to year. The only juniors exposed to tennis in our area are primarily from private/country club families, and that's not my idea of a well-rounded public tennis program.
Why do I say this? Because it pales in comparison to any other major junior sport, especially soccer, baseball, football or volleyball. Each one has a grass-roots program that brings kids along from age 4 or 5 to young adulthood. Tennis programs in our area do not accomplish this, and they could and should.
We need an entity within the Prescott Area Tennis Association, the city, and the schools' PE programs. We must enlist tennis pros, the USTA, and, especially, parents. Volunteers are necessary to outline and structure a set program for our children. The game we know teaches many valuable life lessons. Tennis is an inexpensive, social, competitive and healthy, lifelong sport.
Can we get a good cross-section of people together to formulate, agree and then run an annual challenging tennis program for youth? Will you step forward and become one of the mentors for the next generation in the sport of tennis? More details will be forthcoming.
(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or firstname.lastname@example.org)