Houston's National Junior Tennis & Learning enjoys action at 2014 ITA Men's Team Indoor Championship


Houston's National Junior Tennis & Learning enjoys action at 2014 ITA Men's Team Indoor Championship


HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 21) - Young tennis players involved with the Houston Tennis Association National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) got a chance to meet and run tennis drills with members of the Texas A&M men's tennis team during last weekend's 2014 ITA Division I National Men's Team Indoor Championship.


Held at the The Downtown Club at the Met, one of the two host sites for the tournament, the Aggies played host to dozens of children who take part in the Youth Tennis Program. Other men's Division I coaches and players participating in the tournament were also able to join in the fun, cheering on the kids and posing for a group photo at the end of the event.

Texas A&M sophomore Harrison Adams was among those Aggies who participated.


Each year, the Houston Tennis Association, Inc.- NJTL program works with 7,000 children around the city of Houston, and in winter sessions they work with 250 kids.


The Youth Tennis Program is a free program offered at a variety of public parks throughout the year by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department in partnership with the Houston Tennis Association, Inc.- NJTL.


The program is designed to provide children with the fundamentals of the game of tennis and educational components that develop life skills.


Emily Schaefer, Director of Tennis at the City of Houston's Parks and Recreation Department, which runs the NJTL program, said bringing the children to the event was a great opportunity for them.


"A lot of the kids have never seen that level of tennis so the first time they get to see a college player play is a whole new ballgame. We will be doing a play day with Rice University soon, so we have some of these (events) come up from time to time," she said. "It's great for our kids to get to come to private clubs and indoor tennis centers."


Schaefer says they brought children from 13 different park sites from all across the city to the Downtown Club at the Met.


During the hour-long session, the children first took part in tennis drills with the club's tennis pros. Then the Texas A&M men's team came on court, all dressed in suits for the Welcoming Banquet that was held the night before the start of the 2014 Division I Men's Team Indoor Championship. Members of the team hit balls with the kids and spent time just chatting with the young tennis enthusiasts.  


Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton high fives a young tennis fan

Steve Denton, Texas A&M head men's coach, said his team enjoyed being involved in the event. "Our team was really excited about the opportunity of giving back, taking pictures and hitting with the kids. As young tennis players we all were inspired and encouraged by someone. It was the very least we could do!"


Once the workshop ended, a majority of the participating ITA Division I Men's 2014 Division I Men's Team Indoor Championship teams and coaches came on court and posed for a large photo with all the children and those involved in the outreach opportunity. 

Several Texas A&M players who took part in the event said they loved spending time with the young kids.


Texas A&M captain Jackson Withrow said, "It's always fun to give back to the kids and see how much fun they have. That's the sort of stuff as athletes that we love doing, being able to give back and get kids interested in what we love to do."


Junior Jeremy Efferding added, "I enjoyed being a part of the clinic because I remember back when I did the same type of thing when I was younger. It's nice to switch roles. The kids are so enthusiastic and entertaining - it was a blast!"


Denton said, "It is always great to give back and see fresh new faces in our great game of tennis. The joy on those kids' faces when they hit the ball in the middle of the racket is priceless."

Each year, the Houston Tennis Association, Inc.- NJTL program works with 7,000 children around the city of Houston.


The Houston Tennis Association, Inc.- NJTL program has more than 50 different tennis instructors who work with the children throughout the year. 


"The kids play twice a week, and we encourage them to get involved with Junior Team Tennis, which covers every type of level of tennis," Schaefer said. "When the kids get an opportunity to go to an event like this and see just how broad the world is, and that there are these players from other schools and countries who are going to college, it's all positive for the role model situation that we're trying to create for them."

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