By Karen Ronney
Two is the magic number for the Morongo Basin Tennis Association. The community group located in the Yucca Valley offers two free tennis lessons to junior players so they can have a fun and engaging sports experience. It’s the pathway for kids to sign up for a longer term tennis commitment.
What’s their secret? It’s simple. After two lessons, participants are asked to join the Morongo Basin Tennis Association (MBTA) for a $40 membership fee, and then youth lessons are free for one year. If families can’t afford it, the fee will be waived. No child is turned away. The program is for kids ages 6 to 18 and they receive two one-hour group lessons per week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, weather permitting. Participants also receive a free tennis racket when they sign up for lessons. Thanks to a community grant for funding and equipment from the Southern California Tennis Association Foundation, the MBTA was able to continue their mission of providing positive tennis experiences to the desert community in 2021.
“The Morongo Basin Tennis Association has made it a priority to be inclusive reaching out to everyone regardless of ethnicity, age or economic background,” said Linda Milan, the Executive Director of the SCTA Foundation. “Kids who never thought of tennis are now thriving, developing skills, and most importantly, having fun.”
MBTA Head Coach Al Sanada led the initial on-court programming with a few interested kids, and after one year, the youth sports group has grown to 26 players. All were entry level beginners and now some are ready for their first competitive experiences. In fact, the program has almost outgrown the two courts it uses at Jacobs Park in Yucca Valley. To maintain a low student-teacher ratio, it’s all hands on deck with the addition of coaches Lidia Sanada, MBTA Treasurer Ron Fortna and MBTC President Linda Higginson, the latter a volunteer coach.
“I’m teaching the kids life skills before and after classes,” said Coach Al Sanada. “The kids are learning that tennis can help them cope with their everyday lives. Especially under competition because it brings out our true character.”
Coach Al’s lessons include treating others the way you want to be treated, how to be respectful and the importance of being courteous. Additionally, he teaches about effort, responsibility and honesty.
The MBTA serves the areas of Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms and the tennis lessons continued throughout the COVID shut down. Higginson said the group followed safety protocols and classes remained full despite pandemic challenges. The only minor issue was occasional unpredictable weather, which can get very windy and cold in the Yucca Valley. In that case, classes were cancelled.
“Our tennis program was a great outlet for kids to exercise and stay healthy when schools were online,” Higginson said. “This was a critical service in other ways too. They had a chance to socialize and stay connected with their friends.”
Consistent youth tennis participation has enabled the MBTA to plan inter-club tournaments in 2022 with groups from the Palm Springs area. It will be about a 40-mile trek for Morongo Basin families but the players are up for the challenge.
“We need to provide the next level of competition,” Higginson said. “We want to eventually prepare kids to play high school tennis at Yucca Valley or Twentynine Palms High Schools.
Other MBTC tennis opportunities include adult-drop-in classes on Saturday mornings, where parents of youth participants can also learn to play the sport.
“Tennis is a great game for people of all ages,” Higginson said. “Our goal is to get kids out exercising and learning to play. We are so thankful to the SCTA Foundation because they have helped us keep the tennis program alive when we were low on funds. We couldn’t have survived without them.”
ABOUT THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TENNIS ASSOCIATION FOUNDATION
Our mission of “Changing Lives and Communities through Tennis,” serves as a pathway to offer financial support to individuals and organizations. We are a 501©3 nonprofit organization and the charitable arm of USTA Southern California. We help people of all ages and abilities to improve their health, fitness and quality of life through the sport of tennis. Founded in 1986, the SCTA Foundation has had a community impact of giving more than $500,000 this year through grants, scholarships, program support, equipment and more to recipients throughout Southern California. To learn more about the SCTA Foundation, please visit sctafoundation.org. To donate CLICK HERE