Serving the Community: Bulldogs Participate in New Haven Tennis Outreach

March 5, 2008

New Haven, CT - To those on the Yale men's and women's tennis teams, tennis is a part of their daily lives. Many children never receive the chance to swing a tennis racket, though. The Bulldogs are doing their part to change that. Yale is sponsoring a program, New Haven Tennis Outreach, to provide free tennis coaching, academic tutoring and mentorship for New Haven youth.

"The program reaches those who could not otherwise financially afford this incredible opportunity," said Alex Dorato, the Cary Leeds Head Coach of Men's Tennis. "All of the Yale players have benefited from their experience of learning to play tennis at a high level," Dorato said. "Now, through the combination of athletics and academics a bond forms between students and mentors enabling us to positively influence the direction of the student's futures."

In the inaugural year of the program, 11 children between the ages of seven and eleven are picking up tennis rackets and receiving instruction from the student-athletes and coaches of the Yale tennis teams. In the summer, the students will receive a full scholarship to attend all four weeks of the Blue & White Championship Tennis Camps run by the Yale coaches.

Danielle Lund McNamara, the head coach of women's tennis, said the children have really taken a liking to the members of the Yale teams.

"One of our big goals is to help them with their work and build the relationship," she said. "They love spending time with players on the team."

Jeff Dawson, a junior on the men's varsity team who helped the coaches plan the format of New Haven Tennis Outreach said, "The New Haven Tennis Outreach is truly a special program that affords children the opportunity to excel in tennis, their academics, and form friendships with coaches and players. Progress is seen weekly in the children's confidence levels, work habits, and tennis skills, not to mention they leave having a smile on their faces."

Even if for a short period of time each week, junior Michael Caldwell said he thinks this program will have a big impact on the children involved.

"I feel like we also act as role models, and can help motivate them to focus on something like tennis [while also focusing] on their school work," Caldwell said.

McNamara said the program participants have already shown marked improvement in the short time the program has been in place.

"They are so much fun to work with," McNamara said. "It's something totally new for them, but they are learning quickly. You can see them slowly getting better. It's a great outlet for them."

In addition to the benefits provided to the youth, Caldwell said the program has been a great experience for him as well.

"For me the experience is very gratifying. I've been very fortunate in that I had very supportive parents and the resources to train at tennis and focus on academics at a very young age. Many of these kids don't have that, so I feel like we are giving a little bit of that opportunity to them," Caldwell said. "It's very gratifying to see that you are making a positive impact on people's lives. Tennis has meant so much to me throughout the years, so it's really satisfying to share it with younger kids, and to watch them enjoy the sport."

Program Details
New Haven Tennis Outreach

Mission:

Provide youth from low-income families in the New Haven community with free tennis coaching, academic tutoring and mentorship.

The program strives to promote the character-building benefits of athletics (i.e. work ethic, sportsmanship, commitment, leadership skills). Through the combination of athletics and academics a bond is facilitated between students and mentors that can positively influence the direction of the students' futures.

Overview:

New Haven Tennis Outreach is a non-profit youth development program for students in grades 3-12. The program is directed towards children from low-income families that otherwise would not have access to high-quality academic guidance or athletic instruction. Undergraduates from the Yale Varsity Tennis Teams will mentor the program's students year-round; providing consistent tennis lessons and one-on-one academic tutoring.

  • In the program's first year, it plans to accept about ten students ages 8 to 10. The program will be supported by approximately 20 volunteer undergraduates, as well as the tennis coaching staffs.
  • Students will be selected for the program based in large part on their academic enthusiasm, attitude and work ethic, as well as a general assessment of need.
  • Each student will have dedicated undergraduates that will meet with the student at least once a week for tutoring or general guidance.
  • Tennis lessons will be scheduled primarily at the Yale tennis facilities.
  • In addition to the weekly tutoring/mentoring meetings, the program aims to schedule tennis instruction at least once a week.
  • In addition to providing access to tennis courts, the Yale Athletic Department will provide access to select facilities that can be used for academic work.
  • Students will receive scholarships to attend the Blue & White Tennis Camps directed by the Yale coaches during the month of July.

New Haven Tennis Outreach & Thomas W. Ford '42 Community Outreach Program:

New Haven Tennis Outreach is being developed under the umbrella, and with the administrative support, of the Thomas W. Ford '42 Community Outreach Program. The Ford Program was formed in 1996 with the support of the Yale Athletic Department to pursue the following mission:

  • To Bring Yale Athletics and Yale student-athletes into the New Haven community.
  • To provide Yale student-athletes with the opportunity to become involved in community programs.
  • To provide opportunities for community groups, organizations, and schools to utilize Yale's athletic facilities.
  • To continue to develop new creative programs that benefits the New Haven community.

Report Filed by Steven Horn '10, Yale Sports Publicity