Five hundred excited elementary school students, Volusia County school dignitaries along with tennis Grand Slam finalists Todd Martin and MaliVai Washington celebrated the first school in Florida to feature permanent 36-foot and lined 60-foot kid-sized courts.
The celebration took place on May 24 at Westside Elementary School in Daytona Beach.
Introductory remarks were followed by a ribbon cutting at the entrance of the courts, and Martin and Washington rallying with oversized racquets and oversized tennis ball. The rallying represented what small children feel like playing tennis with adult-sized racquets, and high-bouncing regular balls on a regulation 78-foot court.
Perfect for kids
“You don’t put small kids on a regular basketball court with a 10-foot basket,” said Martin, who uses the kid-sized USTA 10 and Under Tennis equipment and court sizes at his Todd Martin Tennis (TMT) academy. “The 36-foot courts with the smaller racquets and low-bouncing balls are perfect for elementary school kids.”
Funding from the USTA (United States Tennis Association) Florida Section Foundation provided for one of the school’s two full-size courts to be converted into four 36-foot courts, and the other court to be lined for 60-foot court play for older children age 10 and under.
“The USTA Florida Section Foundation provided the final $3,000 that was necessary to become a reality with the four permanent 36-foot courts,” said Foundation Executive Director Linda Curtis. “We are looking to work with more elementary schools and facilities to establish more kid-friendly courts and really blow this thing out of the water.”
Helping Florida communities
USTA Florida and USTA Florida Section Foundation grants have totaled more than $650,000 over the last three years, helping fund tennis programs and projects throughout Florida communities during challenging economic times.
“Projects like this are the result of USTA Florida membership dollars,” said USTA Florida Executive Director Doug Booth.
“More than 90 percent of membership dollars are put back into the Florida community to build and repair courts, and fund other projects that grow tennis in communities. Thanks to our members statewide who support our mission and make these projects possible.”
Other dignitaries at the ceremony included Superintendent Dr. Margaret Smith, School Board Chairman Diane Smith and Westside Elementary Principal Judi Winch.
“My word is ‘phenomenal,’” Winch said. “We had more than 500 students today in grades K-5, and more that came to visit for the event. It all started when one of our teachers was working with kids on the adult courts and told me, ‘This isn’t going to take us far enough.’
“Now we can work with lots of children at one time, and we had teachers attend the [USTA Florida] workshop and they were blown away by what they could do with the kids. Our P.E. coaches learned new techniques, all age-appropriate on the age-appropriate courts.”
‘All about the children’
The school’s annual Field of Dreams Award was presented to Doug Booth and USTA Florida by 2011-12 recipient Tom Brown.
“It’s all about the children – the Volusia County school system has never disappointed us as a partner and we appreciate that,” Booth said.
“I got a call from Judi [Winch], and at the time I didn’t know who she was, but her enthusiasm shone through, and her passion for this project and achieving this for the children of Westside has been wonderful. Our USTA Florida staff, and people like Judy, excite me when I go to work. These courts will be used for a long time, forever I hope.”
The children of Westside Elementary agreed.
“These courts will make us play a lot more,” said second-grader Zachary Urban after bounding off the court. “It makes tennis a lot easier and fun.”