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ATA: Celebrating the past, embracing the future

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February 1, 2017 09:46 AM

By Rick Rennert, USTA.com

The USTA has a growing history of celebrating the idea that anyone from anywhere should be able to play and compete in the sport of tennis.

Embracing diversity and ensuring the sport is inclusive and welcoming to all have become far more than underlying principles of the USTA. Today, they are priorities that drive the organization’s ongoing efforts across the entire nation to grow and promote tennis to the next generation of fans, players and volunteers.

That’s why the USTA has been working hand in hand with the American Tennis Association (ATA), the leading African-American tennis association in the U.S. as well as its oldest African-American sports organization.

Founded in 1916, in an era when African-Americans were barred from participating in the same sanctioned tournaments as whites, by a group of African-American businessmen, college professors and physicians who represented more than a dozen black tennis clubs, the ATA has long prided itself on its ability to introduce African-American youth to tennis, especially in urban areas where tennis may not be readily available, and to grow the sport among diverse populations.   

The organization staged its first national championships at Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park in 1917, and a century later the tournament is still going strong, with plans to return to Baltimore later this year.

The ATA also works closely with the Black Tennis Hall of Fame, whose current members include tennis standouts such as Althea Gibson, a two-time winner of the U.S. Championships (which subsequently became the US Open), who won her first ATA tournament at age 15, and the initial US Open men’s champion, Arthur Ashe, who won the first of several ATA titles when he was 10.

Among the other more notable ATA champions of the Open era who have also been inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame are Zina Garrison, Rodney Harmon, Lori McNeil, USTA President Katrina Adams and USTA Player Development General Manager Martin Blackman, who was inducted in 2016.

Indeed, the ATA has served over the years as a haven for a multitude of multicultural players to meet, compete and pursue their passion for tennis. In fact, while the organization is known for its minority membership, its sections and clubs remain open to all tennis players and enthusiasts, regardless of race.

As it continues to grow the sport among diverse populations in promoting inclusion on and off the court, the ATA syncs up neatly with the USTA’s aspirations to reach out to all of America.

To learn more about the ATA, visit AmericanTennisAssociation.org.

 

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