TENNIS TONIC


| jlyons@queenscourier.com |

The Eighth Annual Family Grassroots Family Tennis Challenge and Health Fair, held on June 20 and June 21, showed children and parents that playing tennis is one way that they can stay active and stay healthy.

Michelle Blake Wilson, the Managing Director of Marketing and Communications for United States Tennis Association (USTA) Eastern, explained that the event has parent/child tournaments. Two yeas ago, she said, USTA started collaborating with the junior team tennis sectionals. Young tennis players between the ages of six and 18 compete to move onto the national championship during the weekend.

“The goals for the weekend are really just to highlight all of the aspects of community tennis – everything from recreational … to competitive,” said Wilson, the sister of tennis player James Blake. “The goal is just to promote tennis and get the word out about tennis.”

An estimated 400 people participated in the event, which aimed to show people of all ages how tennis can help them stay healthy. Wilson said that tennis is a sport for a lifetime.

It was sponsored by the Wilson sporting goods company and The Queens Courier. Wilson also extended her thanks to the City Parks Foundation and to Assistant Parks Commissioner Estelle Cooper and her special events team.

Lenora Fields, a resident of Brooklyn, attended the tennis challenge to see her daughter, 12-year-old Olivia, play as a member of the Brooklyn Lightning team. She said that playing tennis keeps the kids balances as they eat well and keeps them motivated as they compete against others.

“You have to be healthy to do that,” Fields said. “You have to get enough sleep, you have to eat well, you have to have a clear head and I think tennis helps them because they have to have focus. To focus you have to be healthy.”

Fields said the event encourages other people to come out and get their children playing tennis, which results in having healthier children.

“It’s competitive but you can make it fun as well,” she said. “You can enjoy yourself but in the meantime you’re getting healthier as you enjoy yourself.”

This year, for the first time, Michelle Paige Paterson, wife of New York State Governor David Paterson, attended the event. In doing so, she was promoting her own healthy living initiative.

“I am thrilled to see so many young faces here for the USTA Eastern Section Tennis Weekend. It is very important that we – as parents, teachers and coaches – encourage our children to make physical activity a part of their daily routine,” she said. “Both the Governor and I have made our children’s health a priority, and my own initiative, ‘Healthy Steps to Albany: First Lady’s Challenge,’ encourages exercise and nutrition. Tennis is an excellent way to keep our kids moving, and also helps to build character and teach sportsmanship.”

Wilson said that she sees those who start playing tennis develop “a different zest for life.” She also said she has never seen a person get on the court who didn’t want to return to it.

Stating that tennis is alive and well in Queens, Wilson said that USTA Eastern is “very much involved in local communities.”

“They can pick up the phone and call us and we can refer them to either local programs or people who can develop local programs,” she said. “We want tennis to really thrive and the way we’re going to do it is really through the community.”

For more information on USTA Eastern, visit www.eastern.usta.com.