USTA… Breaking Down Barriers

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[Black Star Sports]

During the height of this year’s hectic US Open Tennis tournament schedule the USTA, the organizing body, sneaked in a relatively small, yet charming and noteworthy reception in honor of the National Junior Tennis and Learning Network’s (NJTL) 40th anniversary of its founding.

The event, themed “Breaking The Barriers”, was a first of what will become an annual celebration to honor individuals who are committed to making a positive impact in the world.

The NJTL’s mission is to remove the boundaries which once held tennis within a narrow social and racial enclave, by expanding it into one in which children, regardless of their background, will have the chance to participate in a sport in which as the Williams sisters’ success has proven, can have timeless rewards.

With a network which has grown to include some 550 chapters, found in 46 of the top 50US markets, the NJTL now serves 220,000 youth annually.

On hand for the occasion were Lucy Garvin, chairman of the Board and President USTA, as well as the NJTL’s visionary co-founders Charlie Pasarell and Sheridan Snyder, who along with  the late tennis pro, Arthur Ashe, were responsible for pioneering this civic friendly program.

Arthur’s widow Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe graced the event with her presence, assuring the audience of her commitment to uphold this legacy, which was so dear to her late husband. She spoke to Arthur’s unrelenting desire to ensure that tennis would become more inclusive, which was not the case when he grew up in Virginia in the sixties.  A highlight of the event was the unveiling of her new public service announcement for the NJTL.

CNN’s Tony Harris and Natalie Morales of the” Today Show” were hosts for the evening, while former Mayor David Dinkins, renown for his ardent support for tennis and the USTA served as the event’s featured speaker. The mayor’s description of Ashe as “a credit to his race… the human race” was well received by those who remembered Arthur’s iconic yet remarkable humble image.

Both Sheridan and Snyder would reinforce Ashe’s humanitarianism and the pivotal role that he played in ensuring that the face of sport would reflect the face of our country.

 “Arthur Ashe is the guy who had us going. Arthur is here today,” words spoken with deep emotion by Synder and a testament to the fact that for the NJTL many barriers have
already been broken.

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