In the wake of the Duval County School Board announcing that boys’ and girls’ high school tennis is being placed on the tentative “cut” list for an upcoming School Board vote, Jacksonville tennis advocates are coming out in full force, organizing writing campaigns and urging tennis supporters to attend the next School Board meeting that is open to the public on June 13, 2011, when a vote on the matter will take place.
Tennis has one of the lowest annual costs of sports that are proposed to be cut, and has a lower cost than most sports that are proposed to be spared for cuts. Tennis also has higher participation rates than some dual-gender sports that will be spared cuts such as bowling. School Board officials say they are also considering other options, such as cutting middle school sports or a “pay-to-play” option for parents.
“Middle school sports don’t provide college scholarships and aren’t looked at for college admissions criteria,” says Terri Florio, director of the MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation, which provides after-school tennis and tutoring programs for Jacksonville youth, and sends a number of children on to college with tennis scholarships. “I would prefer them cut middle school sports or make them intramurals before they cut tennis or any high school varsity sport.”
A number of Jacksonville tennis advocates have started e-mail campaigns for tennis supporters to write letters of support for tennis to school board officials before a May 27 School Board workshop, and to attend the public June 13 School Board meeting rally at 5 p.m. outside the Duval County School Board building.
Lara Dedic is a 15-year-old Jacksonville student who plays tennis at Stanton College Preparatory School. She started contacting tennis supporters after she heard the news, and started a Facebook page, “Save Tennis and other high school sports in Duval County — Jacksonville.”
“Like many other high school tennis players, I want to be able to continue to play tennis on the high school level,” Dedic said. “If high school tennis were to be cut, students would be deprived of an opportunity to make friends, have fun, and maintain physical activity.” Her Facebook page can be viewed at www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Save-Tennis-and-other-high-school-sports-in-Duval-County-Jacksonville/201320136577082.
Dede Allen is another Jacksonville resident, former physical education teacher and college tennis coach who has been circulating e-mails in support of keeping tennis in Duval County Public Schools.
“I am a concerned tennis player, tennis teacher, USTA National Trainer and former PE teacher in South Florida,” Allen wrote to School Board officials. “I have spent many hours over the past few years training Duval County PE teachers and high school coaches for tennis in the schools. USTA (United States Tennis Association) and USTA Florida have given time, equipment, and grants to Duval County public elementary schools in order to provide tennis at each and every elementary school site, with hopes of having them continue into middle and high school, and beyond. Tennis is a lifetime sport — it is played from age 4-94. It enables kids to remain physically active, as well as to help them focus more on their academics. They love tennis and the opportunities it has provided to them and they look forward to playing every day. With obesity, in general, on the rise — we need to provide activities that promote overall fitness and tennis does that. Kids need to have healthy choices throughout their school career and life in general.”
Celia Rehm is another tennis advocate who has circulated e-mails to School Board members and fellow tennis supporters, citing statistics such as tennis being the only traditional sport to show a gain (46%) in recreational participation over the 2000-2010 period, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SMGA). Sports such as football, baseball, golf, and slow-pitch softball all showed decreases in participation in the U.S. during the past 10 years.
“According to USTA Florida, Region 2 — which is comprised of Duval, St. Johns, and surrounding counties — has consistently ranked second in the state for USTA junior membership and participation, surpassed only by Miami,” wrote Rehm, a Jacksonville resident and past USTA Florida president. “Region 2 has consistently grown in tennis participation year after year. I would like for school officials to look at these numbers. There should be avenues for this growing number of students to participate in their chosen sport in our high schools until they are off to college. Like other sports, tennis supports the core mission of schools by increasing kids’ attachment to school, thereby helping to improve academic performance and attendance. Eliminating tennis and other sports could negatively affect the students who could and should receive athletic scholarships and the kids needing and wanting to continue their education.”
Florio, Allen, Dedic and Rehm are among a number of general supporters, adult league and high school players, team captions, and league organizers planning on attending the public June 13 School Board meeting rally at 5 p.m. outside the Duval County School Board building, and hoping to make a difference in changing the minds of school officials. Local tennis advocate MaliVai Washington also appeared on the local Jacksonville news this week, voicing his desire to save tennis as a Duval County sport for high school children.
“I’d love to see kids, parents, and league players attend the School Board meeting on June 13 to show support,” Florio said. “Not everyone will get a chance to speak, but just showing up will speak for our kids.”