During 2015, the Amigos Latino Center wanted to provide more low-cost programming for their youth in Richmond, Indiana. The Amigos Latino Center found that local youth were interested in learning the lifetime sport of tennis, and the skills associated with the sport fit well into the organization’s emphasis on providing youth with healthy lifestyle activities and positive group experiences.
A board member of Amigos Latino Center contacted USTA/Midwest Section Tennis Service Representative Cameron Benjamin, and after several meetings as well as training for the organization’s volunteers, Amigos Latino Center developed a summer tennis program. There was more demand and the program expanded into an after-school tennis program bringing together approximately 30 youth of diverse backgrounds to learn together, develop skills, and enjoy playing the sport for a lifetime.
Amigos Latino Center applied to the USTA/Midwest Tennis & Education Foundation (USTA/MTEF) for a grant in 2015 and received $2,000 to assist with court rental costs to offer the program indoors, to purchase appropriate age-level racquets and balls along with other equipment, and to provide each participant with a T shirt and certificate for completing the first tennis session. Amigos Latino Center provides underserved children with a place to learn, be physically active, have guidance from caring adults, and develop physically and emotionally alongside their peers.
“Some of the participants come from homes with families who have to work long shifts and may not be as present, so tennis has been a constant where they make friends, use their abilities in a positive manner, and develop connections with the volunteer coaches who encourage and mentor them,” stated Howard Lamson, Amigos Latino Center Senior Advisor. “It has been very gratifying to see tennis become a family affair in the program as several parents have become actively involved in playing tennis with their children.”
Over the last two years the growth of the program expanded to include two after-school programs (one in the spring and one in the fall), and two more mini-tennis camps in the summer for approximately 80 youth. The growth of the program has led to more community partnerships including working with the Boys and Girls Club as well as with Richmond Parks and Recreation, Earlham College, Indiana University East, and volunteers from across the community. Amigos Latino Center applied for a grant in 2017 and received $1,000 to assist with costs associated with court rental, additional equipment needs, and supplies.
In addition to on-court tennis instruction, over the last three years the program has offered fun events for its participants which include USTA Play Days which involve games and prizes. Several of the participants have also been fortunate to attend the Western and Southern Open tennis tournament in Mason, Ohio, to watch their favorite professional players in action.
“During 2018, we plan to start a program for adult beginners so that tennis may become a family activity for our Latino community," commented Lamson. “This may also encourage more involvement from the parents to get them engaged in our tennis program for their children. We also want to implement a USTA Junior Team Tennis program for some of our participants to give them the opportunity to get competitive about tennis, and stay involved with us as they age out of our after-school tennis program.”
Since the beginning of this year, the Amigos Latino Center has been offering indoor tennis on Saturdays for 32 youth between the ages of eight and 14 years old. The youth have made a lot of progress developing their tennis skills the past two months, and some of the participants will continue in the upcoming USTA Junior Team Tennis program.
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