Workshop designed to draw women to tennis

MIDDLEBURY — An effort spanning all of New England to promote young women’s tennis will arrive in Middlebury later this month, and organizers are encouraging local athletes to register soon.
The one-day workshop is called Women in Tennis Together (WITT) and is sponsored by the New England branch of the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
During its first two years of existence, only one WITT event was held for all of New England, but this year the USTA is helping individual states host workshops. For Vermont the chosen location was the Middlebury Indoor Tennis center, where the WITT program will be held on July 21 from noon to 4 p.m.
Erin Morrison, programs and communications director at the Addison Community Athletics Foundation, was the main organizer for the Middlebury event, which she hopes will help boost women’s tennis in the area.
“This year, the (girls’) tennis team from Middlebury Union High School had very much a building year — they had 15 players and most of them were brand-new to tennis,” she told the Independent. “Having an opportunity like this where you’re bringing girls together who are trying to understand tennis, trying to build some sort of community atmosphere, it’s another gateway for our local players to feel more supported and included.”
The event will include both on-court and off-court components. Participants will get to play competitively in singles and doubles, while receiving instruction from an all-female staff that includes college coaches and tennis pros. Off the court, players will have the opportunity to connect more deeply with their coaches and discuss the value of tennis in their personal lives.
“It’s a chance to discuss how it’s more than just the game of tennis — it’s also about personal growth and development,” said Gail Smith, a longtime tennis coach and athletic administrator at Middlebury College, who helped plan the WITT event. “Athletics is about self-discovery. You learn about yourself as you compete, in how you handle failure, in how you support your teammates in getting them to play at the highest level.”
The event is geared specifically toward young women, Smith said, because their participation in the sport still lags behind men’s.
“USTA has always been promoting youth tennis, but this is a little targeted,” she said. “If you look at the juniors program, you’ll find there are more males participating than females, and because those numbers are higher, it’s going to be a more competitive environment.”
A successful event this year, Smith said, could go a long way toward improving that competitiveness.
Although the event is intended for ages 14-18, Morrison noted that younger girls interested in playing could be accepted as well. Organizers are accepting up to 24 participants and are encouraging early registration. Those interested in registering or learning more may visit the Addison Community Athletics Foundation website: acafvt.org.

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