CARSON, CA, USA - WTA legends and current stars came together in Los Angeles for a successful day of tennis clinics and multi-sport fun at the LA Tennis Bash hosted by First Break Academy, which provides tennis programs for deserving youth in urban areas.
22-time Grand Slam champion and First Break benefactor Pam Shriver was one of the pros in attendance, and she raved about the way young kids could use the program to kickstart a tennis career.
“This is definitely a startup, pilot program,” Shriver said of the First Break Academy model. “We’re trying to show that if you have great coaching at an elite training center, being near an urban elementary school, you can attract elementary school kids early on into the sport of tennis. We want to see where it can go.”
Pros in attendance included also included two-time US Open champion former World No.1 Tracy Austin, as well as current WTA players Shelby Rogers and Nicole Gibbs and WTA coach Marc Lucero. They were joined by ATP players Steve Johnson, Jared Donaldson, Taylor Fritz and Bradley Klahn, among others.
“I’ve heard a lot about First Break, but it’s actually my first time joining into the fun,” Rogers said. “As a professional athlete, part of why we play is to inspire others, so coming out here and giving back and being able to see the next generation of players coming up is fantastic. Seeing the big smiles on their face and how happy they are on a tennis court, and knowing that I had some part in that, is really humbling. It makes me want to work harder and do better.”
Former World no.1 Austin highlighted the life-changing effect of First Break’s programs on kids - on and off the tennis court.
“You can really make an impact on these kids. Seeing the disciplined tennis players really caring about them, they’re good role models,” she said. “I’ve seen kids growing up that maybe aren’t going to be tennis champions, but they’re going to be human champions and successful people. I think it’s a win-win every which way: for the players giving back, for the people that run it, and for the kids as well.
“I’ve seen some of these programs around the country where the kids have gotten a college scholarship and maybe they would have never gotten into college before. Just that impact, that can change families, that can change generations. That’s really exciting to see, and very heartwarming too.”
WTA Charities signed on to become a Champion-level sponsor of the event, and donated tennis shoes to the participants through Tennis Warehouse.
Gibbs added a donation of her own, pledging $2,500 worth of New Balance tennis clothes to the kids as well.
WTA Charities is the WTA's global philanthropic organization dedicated to making a positive impact across the globe. Our mission is to be a social responsibility vehicle built on the WTA's values to empower and provide for a better future. We're dedicated to combining, strengthening and enhancing the community and charitable efforts of the WTA through its members (players, alumnae and tournaments), along with our partners.