ICT's original program continues to bring fun and joy to families across Minneapolis at over 20 parks locations. Youth are pictured above showing off their new "Summer Tennis in the Parks" T-shirts at Webber park in North Minneapolis. Story by Omar Warfa, Volunteer Coordinator
Can tennis really help build a community? This is a question ICT has answered yes to every year since the organization’s beginning in 1952. In particular, ICT’s Tennis in the Parks program is a great example of building community. In June and July our outreach program staff, alongside 40+ head instructors, youth coaches, volunteers, and junior apprentice coaches head outside to bring the joy of tennis to our communities’ youth. Armed with lesson plans and baskets of balls, our team sets out to pave the way for kids to learn the game of tennis, develop character, and make friends in their neighborhoods.
It’s almost as though something magical is in the air this time of year. Kids are laughing, parents are viewing the program in the shade, smiling, and coaches are running around being big kids themselves. Each park becomes a small community.
A parent whose child is in the program stated, “It’s so great seeing my daughter light up. We’ve seen her play soccer but we notice something different about her here. She truly loves tennis and it’s so great that you guys give so many kids the opportunity to love this game.”
In addition to connecting community, the program also connects generations.
Clark Starr said this about the program, “My son, who was reluctant to go, is a week in and going bonkers about tennis ('this is the best program ever'). He's at Lynnhurst park. Tonight, his mom, him, and I went and played for an hour. I should mention he's 7. What's cool is that 40 years ago I learned to play tennis through this very program. It's a treasure.”
Throughout the summer the ICT staff, instructors, and junior coaches help youth build character through a daily challenge. Each challenge is designed to give kids an opportunity to put ICT’s 7 core values (respect, teamwork, integrity, enthusiasm, service, perseverance, and responsibility) into practice. Each daily challenge sets up a realistic goal for kids to complete in time to discuss before the next day’s practice. With 25 days of challenges, each child has the potential to not only learn the game of tennis and make friends, but to develop a solid character foundation - all in a very kid friendly, fun way!
Sample Challenges from 2016
- Bring a water bottle to practice each day (Responsibility)
- Pick up Trash (Service)
- Write a thank you to someone who has helped you (Respect)
About ICT’s Summer Tennis in the Parks Program
ICT runs beginner tennis classes at 24 Minneapolis Park locations for youth ages 6-17 in the months of June & July. Scholarships are available for all families in financial hardship. The program provides paid jobs for over 40 youth instructors each summer. Many of the instructors are graduates of the program.