Tennis Anyone? KDES Wildcats Take to the Court
Game, set, and match! CREATE Tennis, Inc., is looking to make a grand slam for tennis at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES). The organization wants to promote the sport to children who have never thought of playing the game-children from financially challenged communities or children like the students at KDES who are deaf or hard of hearing. "When we first approached Gallaudet University about using their tennis courts for our program, we found out that there was an elementary school on the campus [KDES]-our target population age," said CREATE Tennis executive director Carmela Goodall. "We approached the school to see if our program would fit their educational goals-and we made a great match!"
CREATE Tennis is a nonprofit entity in Washington, D.C., dedicated to stimulating the minds of D.C. youth and providing them with an educational and positive sports environment. Last summer CREATE Tennis set up its first Quick Start Tennis program for the KDES Extended School Year summer program. The children loved it and even had an opportunity to play tennis on the grounds of the White House for one of the First Lady's "Let's Move It" events. The surprise photo opportunity with President Obama was one of the most treasured parts of the event.
The CREATE Tennis staff wanted to keep the momentum going and approached the school administration and athletic staff about the possibility of establishing tennis teams during the school year as well as hosting a summer program. This spring CREATE Tennis set up a United States Tennis Association (USTA) Junior Tennis Team-the Wildcats-for children age 10 and under-girls singles, boys singles, and mixed doubles. The teams compete against students from Washington, D.C., area schools. Team members will soon become USTA members and, as members, they will be eligible for USTA-supplied uniforms and equipment. CREATE Tennis has secured funding from USTA to convert the blacktop playing area adjacent to the school playground into a Quick Start court.
There were some challenges to setting up the program at KDES. The CREATE Tennis coaches were all hearing and did not know much sign language, and tennis is a very visual sport. Soon after the lessons began last summer, the students helped coach the coaches in the use of American Sign Language (ASL). The coaches wanted to learn more, and KDES offered ASL instruction to bridge the communication gap. For the matches, new rules for a scoring system needed to be developed, with hand signals for communication. CREATE Tennis is currently developing new hand signals and using creative ways for scoring to aid with communication when the KDES teams compete against hearing players.
CREATE Tennis cares about the students' academic work off court as well. They make sure practice time is balanced with time for homework. This year they invited KDES grades one through eight to participate in the 2011 Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest for a chance of winning a trip this summer to New York City for the Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, which will include attending a professional sporting event, seeing a Broadway show, and attending a special awards luncheon in his or her honor.
As a result of the positive experience CREATE Tennis has had with KDES, they have expanded their mission statement to embrace and promote diversity with a goal of making tennis and education a pleasurable experience for all children.