Attending a professional tennis match is often thought of as an opportunity to provide access for fans to their favorite players. For Mylan World TeamTennis, the word “access” is taken one step further. Before young fans had the chance to connect with the exciting action of a professional tennis match, they were given access to the sport on a much deeper level thanks to Mylan WTT’s participation in PlayDays.
The PlayDays were created by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to promote and develop the growth of tennis. “The PlayDays are one way of getting younger kids out on the tennis courts,” says Delaine Mast, the National Director for Mylan WTT Recreational Leagues. These kid-friendly events make use of the 10 and under tennis format; with smaller courts and racquets, young children are able to both learn the game more quickly by using age-appropriate equipment and experiencing success.
PlayDays are open to youth groups from all walks of life, allowing those who participated with not only access to sport, but also access to diversity by playing and interacting with one another. A total of 180 children were treated to Friday’s PlayDay, given Freedoms junior racquets (sponsored by Beneficial Bank), and Mylan t-shirts. The format, equipment, staff and volunteers were provided by the USTA Middle States Section.
“If not for these contributors, none of this could have happened,” said Mast. “It took all of those access points to make this possible.” After an hour of fun and exercise, the children were then able to hit and interact with Mylan WTT co-founder Billie Jean King and the Philadelphia Freedoms, including up-and-comer Victoria Duval, former doubles No. 1 Liezel Huber, and the big-serving Australian pair of Samuel Groth and Jordan Kerr.
On how the PlayDays and clinics help introduce children to the sport, King remarked, “We want to get them hooked! If we can get them out here, having fun, feeling successful, then they can see it, and they can be it.”
King’s “see it to be it” mentality parallels the “seeing is believing” motto of Mylan, the league's title sponsor.
“When I read their motto ‘seeing is believing’ after I went to visit [Mylan headquarters] in Pittsburgh for the first time, I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding,’ because we always talk about ‘see it to be it,’ so I think we’re on the same wavelength.”
Mylan, a leading global pharmaceutical company, shares King’s and WTT’s belief in the importance of access. Currently serving approximately 140 countries and territories around the world, Mylan also shares WTT’s mission in access for all. Late last year, they signed a three-year deal with World TeamTennis to become the pro league’s title sponsor, and were christened Mylan WTT starting for the 2013 season.
Mylan is also the title sponsor for WTT’s annual Smash Hits charity event, one that raised a record one million dollars last year in Pittsburgh, Pa. for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, with a portion of those proceeds benefitting the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. The event, hosted annually by Sir Elton John and Billie Jean King, has now raised more the $11.5 million to support HIV and AIDS prevention and awareness programs.
Beyond simply putting a racquet in a child’s hand, the PlayDays look to provide access to an all-around fun experience that the participating children might never forget.
“They got a new racquet, backpack and t-shirt. We had Disney Radio, they won tickets to concerts…they stayed [for the match] and we had music, so they all got up and danced. At the conclusion of the match, they all had access to players on both teams for autographs. At a tournament, they’re not going to do that,” King continued.
Asked about her goals for growing Mylan WTT, she cited access to youngsters as the key.
“We want to continue to have more kids, more groups…I’d like it if we brought 1,000 kids [to the Villanova Pavilion] every night because we’re the biggest arena besides where the Breakers play.”
With the help of their new title sponsor and the USTA, Mylan WTT teams have been able to host PlayDays during the 2013 season in seven of eight cities throughout the country, all with emphasis on developing a sense of access, community and teamwork among children of all ages.