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SHORT ESSAY: If you were in charge, what you would do to make tennis a  more popular sport?

They say that tennis is a sport for a lifetime, which makes people think a person can play until he or she is 80 years old or more. What about age in the other direction? The earlier a person is introduced to the game of tennis, the more likely he or she will play until the age of 80.

Most of the kids my age who play sports play soccer, baseball, softball, football and basketball, and most of them have been playing since they were in elementary school. Unless a kid has parents who play tennis, like I do, they probably won’t have the opportunity or even the interest to play tennis. A big reason for this is that none of their friends play tennis, and kids want to play what other kids are playing.

The answer to this problem is junior tennis. We have junior tennis in Spartanburg but not every year. Junior tennis needs to be run just like Little League Baseball, for example, is run—by the parents and local county people. It also needs to be introduced to kids when they are little, before they get into baseball, football, etc., because as they get older, they won’t have enough time to do both baseball and tennis. They will have to choose a sport, and the odds are that the kid will play the more popular sport.

So, they need to make tennis the more popular sport with kids. One way is through TV commercials with famous tennis stars, like Lindsay Davenport and Andy Roddick. Maybe kids can look up to them like they do Michael Jordan.

Another way is to provide more tennis courts. Not everybody can play at a club, and here we don’t have a lot of public courts. We have more fields for baseball, soccer and football. Maybe the county can build several tennis courts each time they build one of these fields. Schools need to have tennis courts, too, and make students learn how to play in physical education classes. If the teacher doesn’t know how to play, then pros from the USTA can show them so they can teach the students. Also at school, fliers can be handed out to students about local tournaments, and many tournaments need to be for beginners. Those who have been playing for a while and are into tennis already know about the tournaments.

Finally, they need to emphasize the major difference between tennis and these other sports. Tennis is both a team sport and an individual sport. Kids might think they can not handle the pressure of being on the court by themselves, but there are other kids on their team on the court, too. A person competes on the individual level and earns a point for the whole team. That does not happen in baseball. Tennis is a unique sport, and they need to capture kids’ interest at a very early age so they and their friends will play it for a lifetime.