TROY—Troy University, in conjunction with the City of Troy, has been named one of 38 National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapters to deliver the First Serve Life Skills Curriculum.
The annual NJTL National Student Athlete Competition (NSCA) is one of the many ways in which the NJTL network accomplishes its mission of creating educational and recreational programming that challenges and inspires underserved young people.
The 12-month, point-based competition gives thousands of inner-city youth in grades 5-12 throughout the United States the opportunity to compete in both USTA-sanctioned tennis tournaments and in school. Academic scholarships are awarded to those with the best grades and junior tournament results, and participation is also a factor.
“This is a major development for our tennis program, Troy University and the City of Troy,” Troy University Chancellor, Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., said. “The First Serve program puts the emphasis where it belongs by stressing academics first and athletics second. Through its scholarship program, First Serve provides accessibility to higher education, so generations of students from our area will realize their dreams of attending college.”
In the 2009-10 competition, results showed improvement not only on the court, but in the classroom. The number of tournaments played by NJTL NSAC participants has more than doubled since the 2008-09 competition, and the number of matches won by participants so far this year is 962. That total is up from last year's total of 407.
In addition, a review of report cards shows passing grades also are up among the NSAC participants. Compared to the 2008-09 competitors, report card statistics showed:
The top three point-earners in each of the four age and gender divisions will earn a total of $68,000 in college scholarships in 2011. In addition to receiving an academic scholarship, each champion and their chaperone also will receive an all-expense paid weekend trip to New York City for Arthur Ashe Kids' Day activities and special events. Those events include a New York Mets game, a Broadway show, an honorary luncheon and the opportunity to meet tennis players and celebrities.
Mayor Jimmy Lunsford of Troy echoed Dr. Hawkins’ sentiments about what the First Serve Life Skills Curriculum will bring to the university, the city and the young minds of the area. He also applauded Trojans tennis coach Eric Hayes for his efforts in bringing this program, as well as other tennis related activities, to Troy.
“Eric Hayes has done so much for the community through tennis, not just at the university,” Lunsford said. “He brings school kids from the area to the complex and introduces them to the game of tennis. The First Serve program will complement what he has already been trying to do.
“This program gives young children who don't have the opportunity, or won't get the opportunity to learn about tennis, to have that chance with an academic focus too. It's a great thing for the children, and First Serve offers tremendous benefits.”
The addition of the Jimmy C. Lunsford Tennis Complex to the community, named for Mayor Lunsford, was a joint venture between the City of Troy and Troy University. Lunsford said the complex has done great things for the city and will continue to do so into the future.
“We made the commitment several years ago to build a great tennis facility,” Lunsford said. “The City of Troy, Troy University and the Troy City Schools System combined to make the facility a reality. It's one of the most positive things in our community, and First Serve will make it that much greater.”
Troy University Director of Athletics Steve Dennis is also excited about the dual benefits of the program.
“We're very proud of Eric Hayes and the success of our tennis program which has led to this opportunity to make an even greater positive impact on our community,” Dennis said. “Our athletic department's focus, and top priority, is scholastic achievements followed by athletic achievements. That's the same focus of First Serve, and I'm ready and excited to see what a great thing this will be for Troy.”
Hayes has always focused on getting local youth involved with the game of tennis, and he has made them a priority throughout his career. Hayes always stresses taking care of business in the classroom above all else, and First Serve fits exactly into his coaching philosophy.
“First Serve is going to present tremendous opportunities to the youth of our community,” Hayes said. “These are opportunities they have never had before. The great thing about First Serve is its academic focus as well as teaching life skills. This program will leave lifetime, lasting, positive impressions on these kids, and I couldn't be more proud to have it here in Troy.”
For additional information about the First Serve program visit FirstServe.org.