Posts Tagged ‘ tennis ’

Open-Minded: Tennis Pro Sloane Stephens Reflects on the U.S. Open

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Just before the Open American tennis star Sloane Stephens joined American Express and the USTA to participate in the Fresh Courts Challenge as part of the USTA’s Fresh Court Initiative. The campaign refurbished courts in the five boroughs of New York City to promote youth tennis and works year round to refresh courts across the country.While Stephens may have lost early this past tournament, she continues to be a champion for youth sports and living an active lifestyle. She weighed in with Parents on her pro experience and her advice to young players.

P: What does it feel like to be an American tennis player at the U.S. Open?
SS: I am always grateful for the overwhelming support from the fans at the U.S. Open. Playing in New York is one of the biggest thrills of the season.

P: Is it exciting or do you feel pressure carrying the banner for the next generation of American tennis?
SS: It’s very exciting. Of course there’s pressure I try not to focus on that. Mostly it’s personal pressure not public pressure. I have really high expectations of myself.

P: How can we better nurture American tennis talent?
SS: Grass roots programs are really important. We need to get kids active and involved early.

P: What attracted you to the sport at age 9?
SS: I’m passionate about sports & was always active. When I was introduced to it, it felt natural.

P: What are some of the benefits kids may reap from tennis – particularly benefits that are different from other team sports?
SS: Independence and confidence in decision-making are two that come to mind.

P: What was it like participating in Saturday’s event and playing with those kids from the area?
SS: Health and wellness for kids is something I’m really passionate about. I enjoy their innocence and how much joy it brings to them. It’s refreshing for me.

P: What is your advice to young players and to the parents of those athletes?

SS: For kids, practice hard and study hard. You have to do both. For parents, listen to your kids and support them as a kid not as an athlete. It’s important to let them find their passion and not live your dreams through them.

If tennis isn’t your sport, that’s ok! Get out and get active!

How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer
How to Pitch Like a Big Leaguer

Photograph: Credit Craig Barritt/Getty Images

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Laila Ali: Be The Best You Can Be And Then Teach Your Kids Those Habits

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

On Monday, Parents joined the United States Tennis Association and boxer turned TV host Laila Ali to kick off National Obesity Awareness Month at the U.S. Open Championships. As an athlete and mom of Curtis, 6, and Sydney, 3, Ali is passionate about getting kids active from a young age. She shares her best advice for getting your kids up off the couch.

P: We’re here today to kick off National Obesity Awareness Month. How important is this cause to you as a mom and an athlete?

LA: It’s so important because it’s an epidemic here in the Untied States. Whenever children are involved they can’t be to blame. I’m always trying to spread awareness and inspire people to be the best that they can be, first, and then of course teach their kids those habits.

P: How do you get your kids to stay active and healthy?

LA: First and foremost, my kids see their parents being active. We live an active lifestyle so they get included. They’re introduced at a young age to different sports and they realize they like it. I think the key is getting them started young, giving them options and taking them outside.

P: What do you say to a parent whose child doesn’t want to get up off the couch?

LA: I think you definitely have to get involved as a family. Parents can’t be like, “Get up and go outside.” Sometimes you have to go outside with your kids, sometimes you have to go to the park, you have to go skating, you have to go to the beach and go biking. There are so many things that you can do just to get active. Also set parameters. “No you can’t watch TV right now, figure something out,” like they used to say back in the day. You’re going to find something to do because you’re going to be bored. It takes work and it takes consistency.

Find inspiration for fun with your child with Parents’ Activity Finder.

P: With your son just turning 6 and a 3-year-old girl, do they often have sibling squabbles? How do you deal with them?

LA: It’s a constant struggle in my life: these two fussing and arguing and my daughter coming in and wrecking whatever her brother built. He gets upset and I say “I understand you’re upset, but you can’t fight.” There are a lot of time outs in my house. They get tired of sitting out and they learn how to play.

It Worked For Me: Genius Discipline Tricks
It Worked For Me: Genius Discipline Tricks
It Worked For Me: Genius Discipline Tricks

P: What are you most looking forward to as your kids get older?

LA: I’m looking forward to getting them involved in sports because that’s a regret that I have—that I didn’t get involved in sports at a young age. I’m definitely getting one of those nets and racquets and setting it up in my driveway. I can get out there and play with them. I’m really excited about that and learning as I go.

Photograph: Courtesy of USTA

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Andre Agassi’s Box Budd!es Shake Up The Lunchbox

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Parents caught up with tennis star, humanitarian, father (and now snack-creator) Andre Agassi upon the launch of his new snack line for kids, Box Budd!es. Agassi teamed up with V20 Foods to create snacks from milk boxes to granola bars.We particularly enjoyed the fun new Peachy Apple Fruit Pouch as a twist on traditional applesauce. The chocolate granola bars win the Parents vote since they’re the perfect size for a lunchbox treat, with only 100 calories and 5 grams of sugar each. Not to mention, all of the proceeds from these foods benefit the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. But aside from this endeavor, as dad to Jaden, 11, and Jaz, 9, this pro has plenty to say about healthy eating, kids and sports, and teaching your child kindness.

P: What got you started on the nutritional front for kids?

AA: The impetus was about education and it morphed into educating on two fronts. All the money goes to my Foundation for Education, so we can educate our future, and we also educate parents on how to make better choices for their kids.

P: The snacks are a bit healthier and the proceeds support education, but I have to imagine taste was a factor. Were Jaden and Jaz your taste-testers?

AA: They were two of them, let me put it that way. Their cousins were four more and their friends. As we got closer to the end product it became a fun thing in the house. We would line up all these blind taste tests and cut them into little tiny squares so you could compare them and then they would all do their little notes about them. It was actually a pretty fun process.

P: So are applesauce and chocolate milk some of their favorite foods?

AA: We have the same dilemma every parent has in that you keep your kids living a well-balanced health lifestyle and it starts with educating them on their choices and forcing them to eat something healthy before they eat something that’s not as healthy.

P: What are you tricks of the trade in getting them to choose that healthier option?

AA: Well, it’s a mandate. If you want something that’s unhealthy for a snack, you first have to eat an apple. You want to go to dessert, you have to finish this on your plate. It’s filling them up on the good stuff before they choose the bad stuff. If they ask for snacks, as long as they eat something healthy they can have the snack. We don’t discriminate against the snack as long as they start with the healthy option.

P: I know that you are involved with the Boys and Girls club, an organization that mixes education and athletics. Do Jaden and Jaz play sports to keep active and healthy?

AA: Yeah. My son plays baseball, full stop, and my daughter’s on two hip hop dance competition teams. She is rock hard now and she’s nine. I didn’t even know bodies could do those movements. It’s crazy to watch her do it.We’re there at competitions and games cheering all the time.

P: In your autobiography, Open, you talk a lot about how tennis felt pressurized for you. How do you keep athletics, or dance, or physical activity in general fun for your kids? 

AA: Well, we’re not the kind of parents who expect them to do this for a lifetime. We try to nurture what they gravitate towards and they both found their niche pretty quickly. We just support it. There’s nothing to push them at. They just have to see through their responsibility. It’s really smiple: You’re going to fulfill your responsibility. Jaz is part of two dance competitions. She doesn’t have to do it next year, but this year I say, “You’re going to every practice, you’re going to go to every competition.” Same with Jaden—he can make his choices year to year if that’s what he chooses, but I harp on being responsible.

P: Through your Foundation and all of the wonderful causes that you’ve been a supporter of, giving back is clearly an important value to you. How do you go about instilling that value in your children?

AA: All of those things I did that led me  to education. I got tired of sticking band-aids on issues and I wanted to give the tools for real systemic change. But I will tell you this, and one thing I’ve learned most profoundly as a parent: children will learn from what they see way more than what you tell them. So the fact that I’m in New York right now for two days and I’m not home with them, they want to know where I am and why I’m going. I walk them through what I’m doing, as an example, with Box Budd!es. They all of a sudden realize that I’m not really doing something I want to do—I don’t want to travel, I don’t want to leave them—but I have to because it is the right thing to do. So they see that more than telling them. Next thing you know on the weekend they’re having a lemonade drive for the ASPCA to save pets and animals. It’s remarkable how that correlates.

P: I know that Jaden has a birthday coming up, he’s about to turn 12. Do you have birthday plans?

AA: Both of them actually. Jaz wants to take her entire dance team to the Jabberwockies. So that would be the third year in a row she wants to do that. They’re better athletes than anyone I’ve ever seen on a tennis court. They’re remarkable what they can do. Jaden, his birthday is late October so he’s still sort of morphing back and forth between a very understated barbeque with just a few friends or a big movie night with his entire team.

P: Will you serve Box Budd!es at the birthday party?

I’m gonna push this as much as possible. I hope this brand builds. I hope that when people see that seal, that logo, that this is really going towards our future, that they trust the source, and that 100 percent of all my proceeds are going directly to our future.

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These Pro Tennis Players Are Parents Just Like You

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

James BlakeThe 2013 U.S. Open Tennis Tournament has finally come to an end, which means that the season is winding down and the players’ schedules lighten up. For the dads on the ATP tour, this means some added family time. Top ranked players James Blake of the United States, Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland share how they manage being a dad while playing, their most memorable moments with their kids on the tour, and their favorite things to do in New York during the grand slam. Turns out, even the tennis players who travel the world up to 42 weeks of the year value the same parts of parenting as you.

James Blake, dad to Riley, 1

What has your most memorable moment been with your daughter, Riley, on the tour? 

JB: It’s every day. Every day is something new, it’s so much fun. The first time she walked was the day before I left for Atlanta and I couldn’t be happier that I was still home. I watched her walk across the basement floor and once she realized she could walk…just nonstop. I don’t think she’s stopped walking since then. It’s been a month and a half and I don’t think she’s stopped walking or running. And she’s started to mimic. So when I say “night night” she says “night night” back. Every day is so much fun.

What do you most look forward to doing with her now that you have officially retired from the game to spend more time with your family?

JB: I’m looking forward to being around and not even thinking about missing another milestone. I’m lucky to have that luxury, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Lleyton Hewitt, dad to Mia, 7, Cruz, 4 and Ava, 2

What was your funniest or most memorable moment with your kids on tour?

LH: Some of the best moments are when I’m taking them on court after I’ve had a good win—that’s obviously pretty special. I’m fortunate enough that I have kids who are young enough in age that I can still be playing on the tour and they can understand what dad’s doing on tour. Travling a lot, your priorities change, obviously. It’s not so much about my schedule as much as it is about their schedule and what’s best for them.

 Stanislas Wawrinka, dad to Alexia, 3

What’s your most special moment you’ve had when your daughter travels with you?

SW: The first time she came to see my warm-up match in Basel last year was great. She was really happy. It’s more important that when she’s on the tour, she’s really happy to be at Daddy’s work. I like to play with her at night and when I have days off.

Has she been to New York? What do you like to do with her around the city?

SW: Yes, last year she was here. She went to Central Park a lot. For a kid it’s not easy in New York—it’s a big city. It was not easy for us because I leave early in the morning and come back late. When I had a day off I went to Central Park with her to ride the horse carriage and she loved it! She said, “I want to do it with Daddy and Mommy!” It was a great memory.

Image: James Blake by Herbert Kratky/ Shutterstock.com

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Sports Gear Up to 50% Off

Monday, August 26th, 2013

We know that your kid is a star on the soccer pitch. Or on the football field. Or on the basketball court. But even if an athletic scholarship doesn’t seem in the cards, keep him busy this fall sports season — and save yourself up to 50 percent off retail prices — with sporty gear from Shop Parents.

• Help your little Mia Hamm perfect her kick with a Mikasa soccer ball and adidas soccer cleats.

• It’s never to early to work on his spiral. This beginner’s football and receiver glove set is ideal for small hands.

• At 19 inches in length, Prince AirO Scream is the perfect starter tennis racquet for 3-5 year olds.

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Childhood Obesity Awareness Month Starts September 1

Friday, August 31st, 2012

This September marks the third annual Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, first proclaimed by the Obama administration in 2010 to highlight the alarming epidemic in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity nearly tripled in the past three decades. That means more than 23 million children and teenagers are currently affected, putting them at higher risk for such conditions as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

To kick off the month, the United States Tennis Association (USTA), in collaboration with the Partnership for a Healthier America and Let’s Move! (the program spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama), will announce its youth tennis initiative at the U.S. Open this weekend. On hand to launch the initiative will be actress and tennis mom Christine Taylor, as well as fitness expert Bob Harper and Olympic gold medalists Dara Torres and Cullen Jones.

Read more about childhood obesity and healthy living on Parents.com:

Image: Stop sign reading “Stop Childhood Obesity,” via Shutterstock

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Tennis Made Easier

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

While Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic often make it seem that way, tennis is not a simple game to master. I’ve been playing for years, and there are days when I still feel like a novice on the court (mixed in with some rare in-the-zone moments that make me dream of greater, all-too-unrealistic accomplishments). But it’s even more difficult for young kids. Tennis requires keen hand-eye coordination that tends not to kick in until much later (there’s a reason why Little League starts out with kindergartners hitting off a tee) and an ability to anticipate where a fast-moving yellow ball is going in time to strike it. Perhaps the biggest reason it’s challenging for preschoolers and early grade-schoolers, though, is that they tend to start playing it with Mom or Dad on a full-size court. That’s like asking a 5-year-old to shoot a basketball at a 10-foot-high hoop or to play baseball on a Major League field.

Fortunately, that’s changing. A few years ago, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) introduced 10 and Under Tennis, designed to help young kids be successful and get hooked on the game rather than become frustrated by it. As well as having them start with shorter junior racquets (as little as 19 inches vs. the full-size 27 to 28 inches), the program starts kids on smaller courts—36 by 18 feet, as opposed to the full-size 78 by 27 feet. It also has them begin hitting with low-compression balls that move slower and don’t bounce as high, so they’re easier to strike.

Tennis Courts
It makes a lot of sense. In fact, earlier this year the International Tennis Federation mandated that all 10-and-under tournaments must be played with slower balls and on downsized courts with smaller, lighter racquets. The move is controversial. Some parents of aspiring young players feel that since former American champions like Andre Agassi grew up playing on full-size courts and with full-size equipment, their kids should do the same. But Pat McEnroe, the USTA’s director of player development and a former top 30 player (and yes, the younger brother of John), believes otherwise. “Most of the best 8- to 11-year-olds I see have technical flaws in their games, and that’s due in large part because of the bounce of the ball. They’re not tall enough or strong enough to play with a regular ball on a full-size court yet,” he says. The new approach will help developing players acquire proper swing techniques and let them slowly advance to faster, higher-bouncing balls and bigger courts as they grow and improve. In the long run, he believes it will help produce more great U.S. players—a welcome possibility, given that America hasn’t produced a Grand Slam male champion in 9 years and that there are few top U.S. women players on the horizon once the great Serena Williams leaves the stage.

Chances are your priority is not to have your child wind up playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows one day. Rather, it’s that she has fun playing the game from the very first ball. These new developments should help make that possible. And if you’re looking for a great way to get her started, try this: USTA Free Tennis Play Days take place September 1 through October 6. It provides kids of all skill levels with the chance to experience tennis 101 in a social setting—and on a just-right court (the USTA has installed more than 3,000 youth-sized courts around the country). Visit youthtennis.com to find a participating tennis facility in your area. And bring your own (full-size) racquet: Adults are welcome to participate too.

Images via USTA

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