Where there’s a will, there’s a way

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Pam Parker instructs Cleveland Elementary students before their tennis lesson

Editor’s Note:  Today is #GivingTuesday.  It is a worldwide effort to transform how people think about and participate in the giving season. Coinciding with Thanksgiving and the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, #GivingTuesday will inspire people to improve their local communities, give smarter and in a way that is closest to their heart.  Junior Tennis Champions Center needs your support to expand its Community Outreach program.  Below is a story about one of their Outreach sites where there is a strong demand for more tennis programming.

The mandate was as indisputable as a clean forehand winner down the line.  To be a part of the family, tennis had to be a part of you.

“I started tennis when I was eight years old,” explained Pamela Parker (or Ms. Parker if you are one of her well-mannered students at Cleveland Elementary in Washington, D.C.).  “It was a requirement to be a Price that you had to play tennis.”

Since the sport was woven into the Newport News, Virginia native’s DNA,  it was a natural extension for Parker to spearhead the effort to pilot a tennis program at Cleveland Elementary in 2010.

“I talked to [USTA and WTA Executive Director] Ronnie Goodall and the USTA,” Parker recalled. “We had this big kickoff event with the [Washington] Kastles and everyone came out and everyone was excited.”

Shortly afterwards, Junior Tennis Champions Center stepped into the picture and provided coaching expertise, opportunities for high-level development and implemented an academic component called ACE (Academic Creative Engagement) that intertwines tennis themes with Math and English concepts.  Understandably, the students were wary of the academic piece.  Parker describes their transition from tepid acceptance to rampant enthusiasm:

I had coaches coming in teaching tennis and the kids were extremely engaged.  Then the ACE program was introduced.  This component adds a little oomph.  They cover our core values.  At first, it was a slow process.  The students were wondering, ‘Why do I have to go to a classroom when I am supposed to be playing tennis?’.  But after approximately two sessions it changed.  The teacher now has to choose numbers to decide which group gets to go the classroom first.  We have come from hesitation to cheering ‘I get to go to academics first!’.

As word spread around the school, the number of sign-ups and inquiries skyrocketed.  In response, Parker created the school’s first club tennis team.  But supply has yet to appease the demand.

“It is such a strong program that everybody wants to be a part of it,” Parker acknowledged.  “I cannot meet the needs of everyone.  The club team gives them a taste of the program until I find a slot for them to participate in full.”

Instead of feeling exasperated after tallying the ever-growing waiting list, Parker is energized.  She lives by the where there’s a will, there’s a way mantra.

“This year I have a three-year-old and he is phenomenal,” gushes the tennis aficionado.  “We have not worked out what we will do with him academically yet but he is in the tennis program and he is really good.  A natural.”

There is a surfeit of children at Cleveland Elementary like this three-year-old who Parker is eager to assist and jump start their tennis career.  Under her new mandate, this time of the self-imposed variety, she is seeking to introduce the game to as many youth as possible.  It would be foolish to bet against her.  Parker is already envisioning lining up more nets to accommodate the exponential expansion of her tennis family.

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