“The parents, the students - they all know baseball. We wanted to show them there’s other sports out there, and that tennis is a lot of fun,” Melendez said.
Introducing tennis to her group of 60 students from ages 5-13 in after school programming, she saw the sport have an immediate impact. Using equipment provided by USTA Eastern, the lessons became so popular that a waiting list was needed. Parents and students alike began to see the benefits of the game. So much so, in fact, that a youth summer league was developed, all while keeping costs affordable for families. Children from the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA were also invited to participate in the league, which includes an hour of drilling and an hour of competition.
Engaging the Hispanic community is a major initiative of the USTA, and in fact, some of the Perth Amboy students were able to participate in the “Juega Tenis” clinic at a NY Empire match last season, where they were treated to a Q & A with Coach Gigi Fernandez, and a night of watching professional tennis players compete.
Melendez says that the Perth Amoby tennis courts, often vacant in the past, are now being used by her youth players from around the area. “Tennis has brought our families together. It’s had such a positive impact on our city, and we will expand as interest grows,” she said.