Student Union: USTA and TGA have partnered to help teach new players

It’s been more than 35 years since Ronald Reagan stated, during his first inaugural address, “Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look.” We discovered heroes in every state, starting with the determined 69-year-old who won a match at an ITF Pro Circuit event earlier this year in the Alabama town of Pelham, and culminating with the coach who has overcome multiple sclerosis to build a winning program at the University of Wyoming. Their compelling stories of courage, perseverance and achievement demonstrate that the message delivered by our 40th President rings as true today as it did then.

When Tara Fitzpatrick-Navarro became the executive director of the United States Tennis Association’s Mid-Atlantic Section (USTA-MAS), she focused on creating a culture of innovation that would inspire new tennis players.

But after partnering with school districts and homeowner associations to implement USTA programs in underserved communities, in-school programming still lacked.

Then, TGA—Teach, Grow and Achieve—Premier Youth Tennis came into play.

As one of the leading school-based youth tennis development models, TGA offered a strong infrastructure and curriculum. And in March, the Reston, VA-based USTA-MAS acquired the TGA “Master Franchise” rights and launched the new program in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and eastern and southern West Virginia.

Student Union: USTA and TGA have partnered to help teach new players

Student Union: USTA and TGA have partnered to help teach new players

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“We felt that this initiative, combined with our curriculum structure and their methods, was a great collaboration to really present a curriculum that anyone would be able to enjoy,” says Joshua Jacobs, the CEO and founder of TGA. “Also, with that, it increases our probability of transitioning students from these schools to the next step.”

Under the new model, USTA-MAS staff members have been trained to develop relationships in their communities, with the goal of bringing tennis to children between the ages of 3 to 15, of all skill levels.

As Fitzpatrick-Navarro explains, there are mutual benefits to bringing TGA into the region.

“We set it up, provide the training and resources,” she says, “and let the employees function within the support we’ve provided the overall company, while also getting to be entrepreneurial about running their own business within USTA Mid-Atlantic.”

Student Union: USTA and TGA have partnered to help teach new players

Student Union: USTA and TGA have partnered to help teach new players

Since launching earlier this year, Fitzpatrick-Navarro says the TGA program in her region has reached nearly 300 children who would have likely never participated in organized recreational tennis. With almost 50 more schools lined up for the fall, Fitzpatrick-Navarro has been encouraged by the strong interest.

“The thing we’re finding that’s so interesting,” says Fitzpatrick-Navarro, “is how responsive the community is to us coming into their school system and working with them. They’ve been saying, ‘Oh, wow, this is so incredible. We’ve wanted to try tennis, and there’s been no opportunity for us.’ So we’re really excited about creating an opportunity where that didn’t exist before.”