In Long Beach, Calif., tennis is called a “lifestyle for a lifetime.” Thousands of tots, teens, adults and senior citizens play each year on the Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine (LBPRM) Department’s 35 public-park courts in organized programs or for free drop-in play. LBPRM’s Billie Jean King and El Dorado Park Tennis Centers are managed by First Serve Tennis Inc., which is owned and operated by Cathy Jacobson-Guzy, a United States Professional Tennis Association-certified teaching pro with over 25 years of experience as a head pro and facility manager. These two centers provide an additional 23 courts, lessons, classes, programs, tournaments and full-service pro shops, including racquet stringing and equipment sales and rentals.
Something For Everyone
The key to the success of a tennis program is literally offering “something for everyone.” First Serve is contracted by LBPRM to offer more than 100 classes each quarter for tots (ages 4-5), “First-Stroke” students (5-6 year olds), youth and adult classes and academies, as well as “Mommy, Daddy and Me” groups to get 2- and 3-year-olds started in the sport. Within each age grouping, students are classified as a beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate or advanced, and choose private or group lessons. Tennis programs targeted to specific interests–such as Cardio Tennis and Serve-and-Volley Clinics–also are well-attended.
First Serve Tennis’ affordable fees and free court-use policies have kept participation up in a down economy. Hourly court rental rates start at $6, which means a group of four plays tennis for only $1.50 per hour. The company also offers free court use from 3-5 p.m. on non-holiday weekdays for students age 17 and under with student ID cards, and for senior citizens age 65 years and over.
Tennis As A Social Sport
For those who want to play but do not have partners, First Serve offers tennis ladders for teens and adults. Players are grouped by ability level and placed on a “rung,” where they move up or down depending upon winning or losing matches. Players enjoy being able to compete and meet partners who become friends. Twilight Tennis programs for adults are held Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, providing opportunities to meet other players, play, and have fun.
Youth Tennis Camps during spring, summer and winter school breaks allow kids to have fun while discovering the game. Beginners learn basic fundamentals, while intermediate players develop groundstrokes, serves and volleys. Advanced juniors fine-tune their game by simulating pressure situations during game-like scenarios. Good sportsmanship and a positive attitude are strongly promoted.
Home Of Champions
Long Beach hosts five United States Tennis Association (USTA)-sanctioned tournaments each year, including the El Dorado Park Junior Satellite, Annual Long Beach Junior Satellite, USTA National Open Boys’ and Girls’ 14’s, Annual Long Beach Junior Open, Annual Long Beach Open and the Annual Long Beach Senior Tournament.
Several players who have competed in Long Beach’s USTA National Opens recently fulfilled their primary tennis goals. A high percentage of these players have earned scholarships to major universities, including USC, UCLA, Cal-Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, Pepperdine, Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina and UC-Irvine. A few players have even launched professional tennis careers. Alexa Glatch of Newport Beach, Calif., was named “Junior Player of the Year” by Inside Tennis magazine, and ranked Number 5 in the world junior rankings in 2005. She competed at the U.S. Open in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In 2009, she competed in the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. CoCo Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., received a wild card into the 2008 U.S. Open Junior Girls’ Singles tournament and won without dropping a set.
One of the greatest tennis champions of all time–Billie Jean Moffitt King–is a Long Beach native, and honed her skills on the city’s courts. On July 3, 2010, ESPN aired “Homecoming with Rick Reilly,” filmed at the Billie Jean Moffitt King Tennis Center. During the interview, Ms. King indicated that her success stemmed from the city’s public-tennis programs that gave her an opportunity not available in other communities. Ms. King built Long Beach’s reputation as a tennis community, which has led to the city’s hosting professional World Team Tennis (WTT) at the center this summer, with a match between the WTT’s Newport Beach Breakers and the Springfield Lasers. WTT tennis features the biggest names in tennis playing on co-ed teams.
Tennis in Long Beach is also successful due to partnerships with community organizations. The Southern California Tennis Association (SCTA) named First Serve Tennis Inc. and Jacobson-Guzy its 2009 Member Organization of the Year. According to Henry Talbert, Executive Director of SCTA, “First Serve’s leadership and expertise while assisting in programs conducted by the Southern California Tennis Association have enhanced the level of programs, and have provided players with an environment in which they can compete and excel.”
First Serve works with the Long Beach Unified School District to host the annual Moore League Tennis Championships that determine the top high-school tennis teams in the Greater Long Beach area. First Serve has also hosted the Southern California Special Olympics Games tennis events at El Dorado Park Tennis Center.
The corporation has also partnered with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to offer free lessons for youth, and with the National Junior Tennis League to offer free clinics in parks where tennis participation has not been a tradition. First Serve also donates courts for the Deaf & hard of hearing Educational Athletic Foundation, an innovative grassroots program designed to teach life’s lessons to deaf and hard of hearing children through tennis, which improves their overall well-being and quality of life.
In Long Beach, tennis can be a part of anyone’s life, providing opportunities for fitness, friendships and fun. For more information about Long Beach Tennis Programs, visit www.longbeachtennis.com.
Jane Grobaty is the superintendent of Community Information for the City of Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org