Tennis program serves up opportunities for East St. Louis kids

EAST ST. LOUIS — Two local tennis associations  are teaming up  to  bring  the sport of tennis to kids in East St. Louis. The organizers say the tennis program is promoting  a healthy lifestyle and, of course, fun and the gym class will look different here at Lincoln Middle School in East St. Louis.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the East St. Louis Community Tennis Association (E.S.L.C.T.A.) announced on Thursday a partnership to provide tennis lessons to Lincoln Middle School students. City leaders are proud that iconic tennis player Jimmie Conners and other greats came out of East St. Louis.

Anytime we can do some constructive  athletic  training for our kids, that’s 100 percent what we want. Our kids need organized sports and this is great,“ said Robert Betts, East St. Louis City Manager.

“One of the most unique things in the country  here in  East St. Louis is that we get to do tennis , not just every day of one week every month in April,“ said Joe Lewis, Jr., Vice President of the E.S.L.C.T.A.

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Students attending gym class will learn  the fundamentals of tennis.

“I play football and I do track. Tennis will help me with my footwork; it’s very good and doing the off season, it’s a sport I could play,“ said Tayden Goodwin.

“It’s an adventure, a lesson and it can show you new things that you did not know your body could do or your ability to do things overall. It’s a very amazing sport,“ said Kanya McClain.

“Meeting new people in a different environment means you don’t see a lot of black people playing tennis so it means a lot of connections and getting to know more people,“ said Ronald Ferrell.

More than 400 students will participate   in the program, and the professional coaching  staff  will provide  equipment  and supplies.

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“It gives them the opportunity  to join the tennis club at the high school level and maybe have the opportunity to compete on a state or national level; it opens opportunities for scholarships,“ said Rajae White.

Their instructors will be coaches from the USTA Missouri Valley and E.S.L.C.T.A., who will teach them the game of tennis. This unique initiative is the result of a partnership between both organizations, East St. Louis School District 189 and the East St. Louis Park District.

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The USTA is the governing body for the sport of tennis and the recognized leader in promoting and developing the sport’s growth on every level in the United States. The E.S.L.C.T.A. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization that works to introduce the game of tennis to youth throughout the Metro East.

Besides the overall health benefits of playing tennis, organizers hope students will develop skills focused on sportsmanship, leadership and social interaction.

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