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Greenville JTT Finding New Ways to Grow

June 4, 2015 10:19 AM

Jonathon Braden
USTA South Carolina

GREENVILLE, S.C. – On a recent Friday evening, the growing Greenville Junior Team Tennis program practically took over the expansive Kroc Center here.

Kids of all ages played matches on 14 of the facility’s 16 courts. Parents and siblings crowded the facility’s bleachers and upstairs patio. Even the center’s lone fenced-in 36’ court drew of a group of youngsters.

Meandering around the facility was Crimora Carter, the woman who helped make the Kroc Center a bustling JTT site.

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The Kroc Center is often packed on Friday nights with Greenville JTT matches. About 25 percent of Greenville JTT's matches are played at the Kroc Center. (USTA SC photo)


Almost four years ago, Carter formed and coached the first JTT team that played its home matches at the Kroc Center.

Now she’s leading the entire Greenville JTT program. Ashlyn Cousins, the program’s founder, stepped down from the coordinator role in January but remains involved with the organization.

Recently, both women sat down and talked with USTA South Carolina about the leadership transition, how the program has been successful and what lies ahead for one of the country’s biggest USTA JTT programs.

LEADERSHIP CHANGE

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Carter

Cousins has led Greenville JTT since 2008, when she started the program. But she always planned to transition out of the coordinator role at some point in the future.

To succeed her, Cousins wanted someone in a situation similar to what hers was eight years ago: a parent with a business background interested in tennis and flexible work.

Carter fits that description well.

She has two younger children, Mary Cage and Henry, 12 and 10, respectively. And she has recently transitioned out of full-time work and into part-time, contract work as a product manager for telecom companies, including Microsoft.

“I didn’t know someone like Crimora would come along. I was certainly hoping so,” Cousins said.

WORKING WITH SCHOOLS

During the past eight years, Greenville JTT has made growing a kids’ tennis program look easy. In 2009, the program had 420 participants. Last year, it had more than 1,100.

But future growth might be trickier because some facilities are now packed.

The Kroc Center, Pavilion Recreation Complex and Sportsclub can’t hold any more JTT teams on their courts on Friday night, the one night of the week the facilities give to the program, Cousins said.

Carter and Cousins want to achieve similar capacity at other facilities. They also want to reach out to more schools, especially area charter schools that don’t sponsor sports. Those schools can use a JTT season as their unofficial school tennis season, Carter said.

At some point in the future, Greenville JTT might have its own schools division, said Carter, who was the program’s schools coordinator before switching to her current role.

“That’s where our future is,” Cousins said.

CONTINUE WHAT’S WORKED

Of course, Carter and Cousins also plan to grow the program by using what’s worked. They want to continue working with great volunteers so one person is never doing too much, Cousins said. “I hope that we’ve developed a culture of that over time,” she said. “Spread it out. Find good help.”

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Cousins

They also plan to continue recruiting middle school students and their parents to get involved. Many middle school students have stopped playing the sports they enjoyed in elementary school, yet they’re still athletic and their parents want them to be active, Cousins said.

HIGH SCHOOL LEAGUE

Cousins and Carter also see promise in Greenville JTT’s new “High School League.” The program brings high school boys and girls tennis players together during their respective offseasons to experience more matches.

The girls league, which plays in the spring, finished its second season earlier this year.

The idea has gained the attention of the USTA in New York, which is seeking ways to help high school players enjoy tennis year-round.

The idea to create a Greenville JTT High School League came from a parent.

“They come to us,” Cousins said, “and we figure out a way to do it.”

 

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