Chris Evert: 'The USTA Foundation is about so much more than hitting a ball'

Chris Evert at the 2023 USTA Foundation Opening Night Gala at the US Open.
June 18, 2024 10:00 AM
In celebration of the USTA Foundation's 30th anniversary, read a note from our chairperson, Chris Evert, about what the mission of the Foundation means to her personally.
Five years ago, I had the incredible honor of being selected as the next chairperson of the USTA Foundation. This role resonated with me then, and still does today, because the Foundation’s values, mission and impact align so perfectly with my own life story. I grew up playing tennis in a public facility, Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where my father Jimmy was a teaching pro for 50 years. As we played on the courts, my father kept a close eye on us kids, making sure we all were safe, supported, and stayed out of trouble. Because of him, and the sport of tennis, I learned not only the fundamentals of forehands and backhands, but the values of competition, camaraderie, self-esteem, discipline and goal setting, just to name a few.
Those experiences shaped me, and set me on the path to being the person I am today–and I’m committed to giving the same to future generations of young people through the life-changing efforts of the USTA Foundation, which has worked for 30 years to make our sport more fun and more accessible to more kids so that they can enjoy its many benefits, just as I did.
The USTA Foundation, the national charitable arm of the USTA, was founded in 1994 by the trailblazing former USTA president Judy Levering, the first woman to hold the role, and a team of visionary volunteers with the aim of growing the sport of tennis in the United States by making it, and other academic and education programs, available to all youth, regardless of their gender, race or economic status. Today, the USTA Foundation chiefly achieves this through its flagship National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapters around the country that provide free or low-cost tennis, academic support, and social-emotional learning opportunities to prepare them for success, as well as scholarship opportunities, grants and other services. The NJTL network, founded in 1969 by tennis champions Arthur Ashe and Charlie Pasarell and philanthropist Sheridan Snyder, began with a simple question: Knowing the life lessons they learned from the sport themselves, the men wondered, ‘How can tennis be used to help kids reach their full potential?’ A half-century later, NJTL has done that tenfold in partnership with the USTA Foundation: It’s grown to more than 250 chapters that serve more than 150,000 youth nationwide annually, with thousands more alumni–and to date, the USTA Foundation has awarded approximately $64 million in total grants to support this programming.
There are so many wonderful things about the USTA Foundation: from the path our kids take from holding a racquet for the first time to holding a diploma on the graduation stage, to seeing them live healthy and active lives well into adulthood. But to me, one of the most important aspects is that it provides kids a safe environment–just like my friends and I had in Holiday Park with my dad–where they can develop into young adults and dream big, on and off the court. The USTA Foundation is about so much more than hitting a ball with a racquet; it’s about helping youth navigate emotions, understand conflict, be mindful of others, strive for excellence–and guide them as they grow up into well-rounded adults, who will positively enrich their communities, families, and the world.


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