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Youth Registration a perfect match for new QuickStart Tennis Center in Dallas

April 13, 2010 06:52 PM

By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com

In Texas, where everything is proclaimed by the locals to be "bigger and better," the Dallas Tennis Association is about to prove why tennis falls in line with the expression.

The Dallas Park and Recreation Department, with help from the USTA and the USTA Texas Section, has transformed Kiest Park, Dallas' oldest tennis facility, into the first public park QuickStart Tennis facility in Texas and the largest permanent QuickStart Tennis site in a public park in the United States.

In preparation for the grand re-opening of the state-of-the-art site, complete with 12 36-foot courts alongside four regulation-sized courts with 60-foot lines, Youth Registration took over one of the largest cities in the nation with a successful sign-up on Friday, Feb. 26. More than 120 kids showed up to take part in the night's festivities, which included hat giveaways, on-court challenges and free food and beverages.

"USTA National has challenged the sections, and it has lit a fire under the people here in Dallas," said Bert Cole, Director of Junior Recreation for the DTA. "How schools and P.E. teachers are getting into it is just awesome. It's clear that the mantra is, 'Let's get racquets into kids' hands,' and, boy, are we doing it."

Cole is part of the group that heads up Slam Jammers, an NJTL program spread across nine Dallas-area sites, hosting around 500 kids for spring programs and between 1,500 to 1,800 children per year during the summertime. The sample turnout for Youth Registration reflected the larger pool of kids who come out to play tennis. Keist Park, which will become the pre-eminent site for youth programs, borders the Oak Cliff district of Dallas: a low-income, high-crime neighborhood since the 1970s.

"Where we were this year was challenging. This is traditionally an area of the city where parents don't actively participate in their kids' lives," said Cole. "A lot of the kids were just dropped off. It's sad when you have kids show up and get excited about what they're experiencing but can't have their parents share in the moment.

"Right now, (the DTA is) reaching out to a new demographic with tennis, trying to increase awareness. Having little to no parental feedback is tough, and we're still seeing how it's going to go, but we were happy with the turnout and expect it to get better in the years to come."

She remembers her own recruitment into the game as very different from a formal sign-up.

"I started around the age of 14. On my way home from track practice, I walked past a tennis court, and a coach called me over and put a racquet in my hand," said Cole. "Now I wake up in the morning and go to bed with tennis on my mind, always working. It's hectic but totally enjoyable."

For now, it’s a much brighter day for the city. Park Department officials and representatives from the DTA will join with local tennis enthusiasts in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, March 19. QuickStart Tennis demonstrations and specialized drills will begin at 11 a.m. CT and continue after the ribbon cutting with prizes donated by Wilson.

"Everything's going to be brand new, and it's just an awesome place for families. Tennis is growing and will continue to grow because it’s a sport where families can play together," said Cole. "People are beginning to wake up."



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