The city of Grand Rapids is partnering with the United States Tennis Association to get more youth involved in the sport. Pictured is NorthPointe Christian's Sam Bradley playing at Hope College's DeWitt Tennis Center on Oct. 19, 2019. (Kayla Renie | MLive.com)Kayla Renie | MLive.com
Grand Rapids is partnering with the United States Tennis Association to provide youth with opportunities to learn the game of tennis.
The city is one of three in the country -- joining Los Angeles and Orlando -- chosen for a pilot partnership initiative that resources after-school programs with the training and equipment to then teach youth to play tennis.
In addition to the training, the program also offers the city and Grand Rapids Public Schools up to $100,000 to renovate high school tennis courts in the area.
GRPS and after-school providers like YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club will be among those programs to receive instruction based on USTA’s Net Generation curriculum and coaching support.
“This is an ace for our community and it’s another way for our kids to thrive outside,” said Mayor Rosalynn Bliss in a prepared statement.
“Thanks to our dedicated parks millage, Grand Rapids has quality, renovated tennis courts throughout our city. We want to encourage kids to take advantage of these refreshed amenities, play outdoors, exercise and enjoy this fun competitive sport.”
The initiative is meant to promote physical activity, develop social emotional skills, and connect children to natural spaces. It aims to provide children and youth, particularly in under-served communities, with access to the sport.
In March, national tennis instructors will come to Grand Rapids to teach GRPS teachers and personnel from more than 20 after-school providers who serve children through various youth programs. Those individuals will then be able to teach children they serve.
“We’re excited to introduce the game of tennis to our students and show each how this sport can improve critical thinking, mental alertness and tactical thinking," said John Helmholdt, GRPS’ executive director of communications and external affairs.
The school district initially looked at upgrading the tennis courts at both Union and Ottawa Hills high schools with the funds. But after discovering that there’s a local match component for the $100,000, Helmholdt said officials will need to discuss funding capabilities and come up with a plan to use the grant.
The partnership includes at least two six-week sessions of tennis instruction over the next six months through local after-school or summer programs. Participating programs will receive free state-of-the-art tennis equipment and training.
“Our goal is to provide exposure and access to tennis for as many K-12 students as possible to keep them healthy and learn new lifelong skills,” said Lynn D. Heemstra, executive director of the joint city-GRPS office, Our Community’s Children, in a statement.
“We hope to introduce this great sport to a new generation and, hopefully, inspire the next generation of tennis players. The pilot will allow us to increase capacity to serve more children and youth and establish a new partnership that will extend beyond the life of this initiative.”