Get those tennis rackets out and ready to serve this winter. Tennis Memphis, a non-profit organization dedicated to building community and enhancing the physical, mental, and emotional lives of Memphians through tennis, no matter their ability or socioeconomic status, re-opened its Leftwich Tennis Center in East Memphis last month.
It’s the latest addition to their total of seven strategically placed public tennis centers located around Memphis, all of which Tennis Memphis has been operating for the city of Memphis since 2001.
Leftwich Tennis Center recently underwent 30 million dollars in renovations, funded collectively by the City of Memphis, University of Memphis, Tennis Memphis, and private donors. The facility boasts 12 indoor and 24 outdoor courts across 200,000 square feet and models the United States Tennis Association (USTA) national site in Orlando.
“It put Memphis on the map in the southeastern region and nationally, as it’s the only facility of its kind to open this year,” says Ann Sneed, Tennis Memphis’ Marketing Manager.
Ann learned about the organization after registering for a promotional lesson at Eldon Roark a few years ago. Soon enough, her children George, 6, and Virginia, 8, joined Tennis Memphis’ Junior Development track, where Ann found fulfillment in volunteering.
“We got to play with people from all different walks of life, and it’s where we often spent our afternoons and weekends.”
Tennis Memphis’ mission of creating tennis accessibility for everyone brings people of all backgrounds together for healthy fun. It also ensures no child is turned away due to an inability to pay.
The non-profit offers skill-based clinics, outreach programs, youth and junior development, and educational enrichment to a broad spectrum of ages, abilities, demographics, and socioeconomic levels, led by world-class instructors to bring quality tennis to everyone. Their Leftwich location is conveniently within walking distance from the University of Memphis and several public and private schools.
Youth fees are on a sliding scale scholarship, and an average of 70% of junior participants receive assistance or attend free of charge. Just last year, the organization awarded nearly $100,000 in scholarships, the majority to those living in under-resourced areas, with over 1,000 youth participants participating in their programs last year.
“I just realized the coaching and quality was awesome and different than the stigma I had assumed about playing tennis.”
Their facilities offer adult and homeschooling programming and lessons during the day and serve as a home facility for USTA teams. Afternoons at the court see the Junior Development programming, which supports those aspiring to advance in the sport professionally, bringing healthy competition to games.
Ann notices a true sense of family, community, and belonging from her observations working with the junior program. She’s seen children in this program become more well-spoken and comfortable with who they are because tennis is a medium that connects so many different people.
A core part of the Junior Development program is its emphasis on effort and attitude, which empowers students to always bring their “A” game to the court, no matter what may be going on in their lives.
“It has been beautiful to see all these kids come together. Everything else goes away, and we’re playing, competing, and loving each other.”
Ann is always blown away by the camaraderie, teamwork, and encouragement at Tennis Memphis. “Everyone roots for each other hard, and I’ve found that to be rare.”
“I’ve witnessed the same thing among the adults. The commonality is a passion and love for tennis. What Tennis Memphis is doing for the city is such a positive.”
Ann plays tennis about five times per week at Tennis Memphis and has competed on different USTA teams locally, in addition to her own weekly Peloton strength training. She credits Tennis Memphis’ quality coaching for helping bump up her tennis rating from a 3.0 to 4.5.
She officially joined the staff this past July and encourages those wanting to get involved to join their volunteer efforts with the Junior Development and Tennis and Tutoring, the latter of which divides its time between physical activity and supplemental education.
Tennis Memphis also provides introductory tennis classes at community parks, with quality coaching for as low as $25 for 8-week sessions and those on government assistance participating for free.
IG: @tennismemphis | Tennismemphis.org
By Shlomit Ovadia
Photo by Tindall Stephens