College tennis outreach program leaves mark with both players and kids

USC photo Harper for Kids

College tennis outreach program leaves mark with both players and kids

Harper for Kids partnership with college programs mutually beneficial


College tennis players are getting the chance to be role models for young kids through a partnership between non-profit organization Harper for Kids and a number of college tennis programs.


Peanut and Tim Harper, co-founders of Harper for Kids, have developed a successful partnership that began with the University of San Francisco and has expanded to include teams such as USC, Stanford, Pepperdine, UC Irvine, UC Davis and Boise State.


Boise State men's tennis team

The mission of Harper for Kids is to teach children the important life skills that will empower them to achieve their personal best in life. Through their growing relationships, school children in San Francisco have been able to speak with and learn about success from tennis coaches and athletes.


Harper for Kids regularly brings tennis coaches and teams into local schools, where they are able to share knowledge with the school children. During assemblies which focus on character education, coaches do book readings, hold Q&As about team success and talk about how teams and individuals deal with challenges on and off the court. Teams will often do a tennis demonstration with fun drills, often involving the students and teachers.


The Harper for Kids and college tennis partnerships began with University of San Francisco Coach Peter Bartlett and Coach Pablo Pires de Almeida and their men's tennis team. "Because of their level of commitment and what's developed with our partnership and all the school assemblies and class visits they've done with us, all of these other college partnerships have happened," Peanut Harper said.


Bartlett, Director of Tennis and Head Men's Tennis Coach at USF, said his team has had very positive experiences working with the Harper for Kids program. "Our student athletes enjoy the interaction with children from the various schools in San Francisco and the Bay Area and recognize that they can have an impact on these kids' lives in a positive manner."


Though Bartlett said his team partakes in an array of community service activities, he says their time with Harper for Kids is different. "We feel like the Harper for Kids organization has a unique message that we haven't felt from other community service projects our team has been involved in. This program has a more personal feel," he said.


University of San Francisco players and coach Peter Bartlett taking part in the Harper for Kids program

Bartlett says his student-athletes gain a great deal from working with the Harper for Kids program. "It helps them recognize that they can make an impact -- in a sense being something larger than themselves on campus playing tennis. It also helped them develop their public speaking skills and connected them to other community leaders and it has created another level of support for our program and widened our fan base."

Since working closely with Barlett and his athletes, Harper expanded the relationships with other top coaches from prominent Division I tennis programs, including USC Coach Peter Smith, Stanford Coach Dick Gould and Coach Brandon Coupe, Pepperdine Coach Adam Steinberg and Coach Marcelo Ferreira, UC Irvine Coach Trevor Kronemann, Boise State Coach Greg Patton and UC Davis Coach Bill Maze.


Harper says the coaches are a vital part of the program. "The college tennis coaches and players we've worked with have been such positive role models and we've just been so impressed with their care and commitment, especially with their packed schedules."


Bill Maze, head women's coach at UC Davis, is another coach who has valued working with Harper for Kids and says the experience has been fantastic for his team. 


"Sometimes our players forget how fun tennis is and how lucky they are to be at a great school and on a great team," Maze said. "These school children were so enthusiastic and excited about the sport that it inspired my players and helped them see how fun tennis can be. The funny thing is, we were supposed to be teaching them lessons and they taught us the best one of all - enjoy yourself." 

UC Davis women's team shows their skills to kids as part of the Harper for Kids outreach program

Maze also is a believer that it's important student-athletes give back to the community. "Collegiate women's tennis players are the perfect role models for those children who are interested in going to college and playing a sport," he said. "Harper for Kids is communicating amazing life lessons through the words of John Wooden. If our student-athletes can help carry these messages to children of all backgrounds it helps the children and it helps our players. Our players need to see that there are others who haven't been as fortunate as they and to help those who haven't had as many opportunities can be very rewarding."


"What they enjoy most is to see the joy on the faces of the kids they are helping and to feel they are giving something back for all tennis has given them," he added.


Peter Smith, head men's coach at USC, says his team always loves working the Harper for Kids schools. "When they see and feel the connection they make with the kids, they get as much out of it as the younger kids," he said, adding that his players' biggest takeaway is feeling like they are making a difference.


Pepperdine men's tennis team

Harper says the coaches enjoy taking their teams out into the community, and that the children love watching the athletes play and learning from their experiences.


"These college tennis coaches and their teams have been incredibly generous with their time and care to help us teach children about legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden's Pyramid of Success, which our youth character development program is based upon," Harper said.


The Pyramid of Success teaches the importance of the building blocks of success: industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, enthusiasm, self-control, alertness, initiative, intentness, condition, skill, team spirit, poise, confidence and competitive greatness.


Harper, a former pro tennis player who reached the top 20 on the WTA tour, said the first time she was exposed to the pyramid she realized that, "tennis taught me all of those things. It's not about the trophies or medals on the shelf, but about giving your best effort day in and day out."


"The overall goal of the partnerships is to showcase positive role models who are great examples of what the Pyramid of Success is all about. The principals of the schools we work with love that these top college student-athletes can come to talk to the kids about these important life skills and also about the importance of their education. All of the coaches have such valuable words of wisdom to share and it's great that it always goes hand in hand with Coach Wooden's definition of success and that all they can ask of their players is to give their best effort," Harper said.


The Stanford men's tennis team has been involved with Harper for Kids as well. Dick Gould, former coach and currently The John L. Hinds Director of Tennis at Stanford University, has only high praise for the partnership.

"I have been honored to participate with Harper for Kids at both school assemblies and at Campus Kids' days at Stanford University. Positive values and life skills are so very important in today's world, and our youths have far too many poor examples. When our Stanford athletes join forces with Harper for Kids, it is very powerful."

Legendary tennis coach Dick Gould of Stanford during a recent USTA/ITA Campus Kids' Day event


Harper says having Coach Gould involved has been very beneficial. "Like Coach Wooden, Coach Gould has been such a huge source of inspiration for us and his constant support and kind words of encouragement motivate us even more. We love his message to the kids and how he always emphasizes the importance and power of a simple smile and to remember to have fun," she said.


Stanford assistant men's tennis coach Brandon Coupe added, "Our guys enjoy the incredible feeling of excitement coming from the kids and the teachers who came out and hit a few too. Harper for Kids is a great initiative in our community. It is important for our young men to be helpful in the community, giving some of their time and energy to help the next generation."


Gould, like many other coaches, says the relationship is a win-win. "It works both ways - our student athletes are reminded of the importance of giving back - they love to participate, and they themselves are better human beings for doing such."


For more information on Harper for Kids, please visit


About the ITA 
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is the governing body of college tennis, overseeing men's and women's varsity tennis at NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA and Junior/Community College. The ITA administers a comprehensive awards and rankings program for men and women varsity players, coaches and teams in all divisions, providing recognition for their accomplishments on and off the court. For more information on the ITA, visit the ITA website at www.itatennis.comlike the ITA on Facebook or follow@ITAtennis on Twitter.
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