The Net Generation Kids’ Zone presented by Emirates was one of the most energetic spots on the US Open grounds on an overcast Wednesday afternoon, as the annual “Returning the Love” clinic was held at Backyard Court 17, and this year’s event had a bit of a different spin.
Net Generation—the official youth tennis brand of the USTA—introduced the importance of the USTA’s American Development Model: a multi-sport approach. Kids of all ages were not only able to play tennis with different pros, but they also participated in soccer dribbling, basketball shooting and golf putting, as well as competed on an agility course with a football and practiced some hockey skills.
It is no secret that participating in different sports at a young age helps develop a variety of skills. Evan King, who is ranked No. 118 in the world in doubles and was one of the pros who participated in today’s clinic, can attest to that.
“Playing in sports, such as basketball or college tennis, has taught me to fight and compete for things and people bigger than myself,” King said. “The act of being selfless and personable gives me peace and calmness when I am on the tennis court competing. You have different avenues to go into when you expose yourself to activities beyond tennis.”
Leah Friedman, the USTA’s national manager of Net Generation, was particularly excited about the clinic and exposing the kids to a variety of sports.
“This event is incredible,” Friedman said. “The Net Generation Kids’ Zone is all about exposing kids to multi-sports—getting them out, having fun, showing them the US Open, but really allowing them to test their skills in all sports. Not even the pros only stick to just tennis.”
Kids from Cunningham Park, Elmcor Youth and Adult Adult Activity, Inc., and the Dominico-American Society of Queens participated in today’s clinic.
“It is really exciting for the kids,” said one of the counselors from Cunningham Park who accompanied the children to the event. “They get to see the players they hear about all the time. The kids ask if the players actually live here and what they do exactly. They are just so excited to see something that’s on television in real life.”
Cunningham Park’s mission goes beyond helping the children become multi-talented athletes. They also want to serve as mentors for each and every child.
“On a regular basis, we help the kids feel confident, make them feel good about themselves and help them feel like they’re improving, whether it’s physically, mentally or emotionally.”
The attendees from Elmcor Youth and Adult Activity, Inc. were also overjoyed by the clinic and the opportunity that the Kids’ Zone presented.
“The kids have so much energy that it feels like a hurricane every single day,” said an Elmcor counselor. “It’s a long day, every day. They never get tired. Being here actually helps the kids with their energy because once they get back to Elmcor, they get more relaxed.”
Added a Dominico-American Society counselor: “We work with the kids in the summer program, so we’ve known them for maybe three months, and that’s why we are here. We do everything in this program. We play all different kinds of sports, classes, reading, math, park, and go on many trips.”
The kids are so inspired and motivated to be around professional athletes who were once their age. It thrills them to know they could be playing at the US Open one day, just like their idols.
“Coming to the US Open is life-changing, and being able to interact with professional tennis players here on a tennis or basketball court, it doesn’t get much better than that. We have had multiple pros coming throughout the week, and they are absolutely loving it all,” said Friedman.
The US Open expects more than 1,300 young players to take part in a variety of activities at the Kids’ Zone throughout this year’s tournament.