The Cincinnati Tennis Foundation is dedicated to impacting lives through tennis and education, and Withrow University High School has been the epicenter of action this summer. Seeking to find a location that allows players throughout the city access to quality courts, the Foundation raised almost $100,000 to resurface the courts and add accessible ramps for wheelchair and adaptive players to better utilize the space. With this new central location, CTF created opportunities for both Withrow students and youth across the city.
The courts were first built in 1929 and throughout their history they were home to Withrow players who went to The Ohio State High School Championships and moved on to college tennis teams.
Programming on the courts this summer included Foundation-led Summer Scholars Tennis with Jerry Howard ’75 (who was a Withrow State Championship player) helping the CTF team to get kids out trying something new. CTF will be working with administration to develop a plan to get a Jr High team back in action that will grow into a high school tennis program.
The summer kicked off with over 300 youth from across the district coming out to play this May. State Senator Cecil Thomas ’71 and Principal Gray swung the ceremonial first hit. Over 1,000 players have now stepped out on the newly refinished courts. All programming is free or income based, designed to make the sport accessible to all players. Just over 80% of CTF’s players are economically underserved. Tennis equipment is provided to those in need.
Executive Director Matt Dektas and program coaches have coached more than 300 NCAA athletes and look forward to bringing that energy to kids that haven’t had the opportunity to play before.
The Foundation offers weekly wheelchair tennis clinics and monthly Adaptive tennis classes led by a three-time Paralympian, Emmy Kaiser. We are excited about growing these programs with CPS youth. The third annual Cincinnati Wheelchair Tennis Open brought 35 players and 10 juniors to Withrow from across the country for the weekend. Tom Porter ’76 stopped by for the event. “It was like coming home. I swung at my first tennis ball on these courts. My mother taught me the basics here. Watching these tremendous athletes play was an experience I will not forget. I was honored to meet several of them,” Tom said.
To offer more opportunities to players, CTF includes educational enrichment during camps and afterschool programs. Curriculum has been designed by leaders from Xavier’s early childhood education department and has now been delivered to over 150 students at four locations this year. At Withrow, the summer LEAP program (Life and Education Advancement Pathway) impacted 30 youth during full day camp during the month of July. In addition to tennis and educational opportunities for area youth, three Withrow students were hired as paid interns with the support of the Withrow Alumni Association to lead players both on and off the court. Awa Seck, Adeline Niyonkunda, and Kynnedy Wiley spent the month guiding children ages 6-12 with the financial support of the CTF team, practicing both their tennis and leadership skills. Both Awa and Kynnedy shared that they hope to be leaders on a Withrow tennis team in the future.
The Foundation dreams to build an indoor facility on campus with university quality courts, additional classrooms, and community spaces to be used by Withrow and tennis players throughout the community. They are currently in the fundraising stages pursuing an anchor donor and potential tenants to support the project. The expected funding requirement is $7-8M. Initial designs were completed by the USTA to ensure the space is adequate for a structure, but specific designs have not yet been created. The Foundation is working closely with the administration to ensure a design that creates opportunity for the community while respecting the space and current needs of the community.
As you can see it is an exciting start! We hope that you will join as we move forward to provide much more than just a love of tennis for children in Cincinnati!