SERVES program provides foundation for under-resourced kids wanting to pursue tennis in Steamboat Springs
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Tennis can be a sport for anyone, if they are afforded the opportunity.
“Last year, the United States Tennis Association Colorado and their funding arm, Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation, put out an application to see if you wanted to become one of their SERVES sites,” Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs Business Development Director Loretta Conway said. “And we applied and told them we have a nice indoor and outdoor tennis facility, but we don’t have a lot of under-resourced families coming in.”
SERVES stands for success, education, respect, values, excellence and self-confidence, and it’s a program funded by the CYTF to provide free tennis instruction to identified youth from culturally diverse communities.
The program, coached by the Tennis Center’s Assistant Director Kristyn Wykert, takes place in six-week sessions, where kids are bused to the Tennis Center to play tennis from 4 to 5:30 p.m. every Friday.
Last year, SERVES held three six-week sessions for 12 kids. The first six-week session of 2019 served 14 kids.
In addition to SERVES, the Steamboat Tennis Association decided it wanted to help a few of those kids take their tennis skills to the next level. The nonprofit purchased the students’ equipment and paid for their participation in after-school tennis twice per week. There are also plans to help fund tournament play in the summer.
Leslie Jimenez, 11, and Lilly Waldren, 13 — both SERVES program participants — were selected to continue tennis outside of SERVES through an after-school program, according to Wykert, which will provide them with the training necessary to help make their dreams of being on the high school tennis team a reality someday. Lilly will try out next year.
Altogether, the association is providing about $2,500 worth of assistance to each player’s pursuit of the sport.
Leslie was honored for her dedication at the USTA’s 19th Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame induction, where the CYTF also honors the achievements of volunteers, organizations and players who have gone above and beyond in their dedication to tennis. She was able to meet Wayne Bryan, a famed tennis coach and father of the Bob and Mike Brothers, the most successful professional doubles team in tennis history.
“She was so inspired to meet somebody at that caliber,” Conway said. “To have a trip to Denver and be highlighted up on the stage in front of 500 people really has her excited to continue tennis for a long time.”
The longterm hope is that the SERVES program grows in Steamboat and the Steamboat Tennis Association can fund more kids in the future who want to pursue tennis.
“We’ve got a lot of huge highlights through SERVES,” Wykert said. “Not to mention that all these kids have come to the program and who wouldn’t have stepped into the Tennis Center (otherwise). Every time they get on the court, they don’t want to leave.”
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