By Nicole Poirier/ BB&T Atlanta Open
DAYS AND HOURS
Saturday, 7/20-Saturday 7/27: 11 .m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, 7/28: Noon to 5 p.m.
Only feet away from Stadium Court, the next generation of tennis hopefuls begin their careers in the USTA Family Zone.
A tournament-long event that gives both parents and kids an avenue to not only play tennis, but also to get involved in USTA. Located in the Atlantic Station’s Central Park, the USTA Family Zone is a collaboration of USTA Southern, USTA Georgia and USTA Atlanta that has become a tradition.
Izzy Hartman, the Marketing and Communications Specialist for USTA Georgia, emphasizes that the event is not just for kids. "The family aspect of the event is very important. If we spark an interest in tennis in the kids, that’s our main goal. When we can get the whole family involved, though, that’s the most rewarding," Hartman said.
USTA Family Zonew one is open to children of all levels and their families. With three "grass courts" sized for ages 10 & under with special balls and certified teaching pros, the USTA Family Zone ensures that families are not only having fun, but also getting quality instruction.
Using the USTA 10 and Under, a format introduced in the last few years, youngsters play with right-sized racquets, balls and nets on right-sized courts. The goal is to have balls that bounce the right height for 10-and -under players and play with equipment that fits their size.
Carrie Gronholm, a 7-year-old player, and her father both banged away on the courts, as he helped her work on her form, in tandem with an instructor. Terry Flynn is one of many instructors who started working in the zone in and has even had some of the players he first met in the USTA Family Zone take lessons from him, proving that the experience can be a lasting one for many young players.
Located in the middle of all the activity is a USTA booth, giving families a way to sign up for a USTA membership or renew their old membership on site. They are even offering players incentives that are only available during this year’s tournament. Players who purchase or renew a one-year membership will receive a $20 Visa gift card, while those who commit to a three- or five-year membership will receive one worth $40.
Kids also receive benefits from the USTA. Players aged 10 and under will get their first year of their membership free, along with a Nike t-shirt. As families leave, a container of tennis balls of all sizes is sure to catch their eye, and USTA encourages each person to take a guess at how many balls there are. The winning guesser will be returning to the BB&T Atlanta Open next year, as they will win four premium level tickets for the 2014 tournament.
Families should make sure to stop by the zone multiple times as the tournament goes on, as USTA is making sure to provide special events to draw in even more young players and their families. Early in the week, 100 YMCA kids will be stopping by the USTA Family Zone to play matches on all three courts. Throughout the week, young players should also keep their sharpies handy, as USTA will have multiple main draw players stopping by the zone to meet with the children and maybe even play a couple of games with them.
With all the events and prizes to be won at the USTA Family Zone, it’s no surprise that USTA adds more and more young players every year.