SAN FRANCISCO – A few miles from the whir of construction at the new Golden Gate Park Tennis Center, about 100 elementary school kids were being coached by one of the top tennis players in the world at Hamilton Recreation Center today.
Sloane Stephens, a 2017 U.S. Open champion and advocate for education and wellness, shared her journey to Wimbledon fame with the children from the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s Tennis & Learning Center (TLC) and fielded questions from the kids. Later, as the young tennis players practiced drills, Stephens lent her expertise, correcting a stance here, demonstrating a serve there.
The event included another cause to celebrate: upon the completion of the new tennis center in Golden Gate Park in 2020, the TLC program will be able to expand to middle school, serving 60-80 more students from underserved neighborhoods.
Stephens, who has won six WTA singles titles, felt a special connection with the young students in the program.
“I see myself in the TLC kids because I know firsthand how tennis contributes to success off the court,” Stephens said. “There is no better training in problem solving, concentration, and playing fairly. You get good at winning, but more importantly, you learn that failing is just part of learning. I am so excited that they will continue to develop their potential at a world class tennis facility starting next year.”
In April, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department broke ground on its project to transform its 125-year-old Golden Gate Park Tennis Center into one of the best public tennis facilities in the nation. The $27 million project was made possible through a partnership with the San Francisco Parks Alliance and the Tennis Coalition. When complete, the center will offer 17 new USTA-regulation tennis courts, a sunken court feature and a dedicated pickleball court. New court lights will provide increased playtime for the public while the new clubhouse will allow SF Rec and Parks to expand the TLC program.
“Our children deserve to learn and play in great facilities, and that’s what we’re building in Golden Gate Park,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “We hope the next generation of tennis stars will be able to learn about the value of hard work and dedication right here on the new Golden Gate Park courts. By increasing public access to tennis courts and investing in coaches and training programs, we can make it normal for all kids in San Francisco to play tennis if they want to, regardless of their zip code.”
TLC provides one-on-one tutoring, parent engagement, tennis instruction and other support services for a total of 100 elementary students each year at Palega Recreation Center in the Excelsior, in partnership with Hillcrest Elementary; Hamilton Recreation Center in Western Addition, in partnership with Rosa Parks Elementary; Betty Ann Ong (BAO) Recreation Center in Chinatown, in partnership with Gordon J Lau Elementary; and Youngblood Coleman Playground in Bayview Hunters Point, in partnership with George Washington Carver Elementary.
Each student receives over 10 hours of homework help with additional one-on-one tutoring available three days per week, as well as five hours of tennis instruction per week. TLC students have made strides in improving their reading levels as well their social-emotional development.
“The TLC program is part of what makes growing up in San Francisco so special,” said SF Rec and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg. “Here we have dedicated coaches who are invested in our children’s future, both on and off the court. With the opening of the new tennis center in 2020, we’ll be able to grow alongside these kids and continue to guide them toward success.”
About the Tennis Learning Center
The TLC is a youth development program that pairs tennis lessons with tutoring for elementary school students from underserved communities throughout the school year and during all school breaks including summer. TLC’s mission is to promote academic achievement, health, wellness, and social-emotional development, through the sport of tennis.
About the Tennis Coalition
The Tennis Coalition promotes San Francisco’s advantage for year-round public tennis by spearheading the renovation of the historic Golden Gate Park Tennis Center and strengthening San Francisco’s tennis community.
About the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department currently manages more than 220 parks, playgrounds and open spaces throughout San Francisco, including two outside city limits—Sharp Park in Pacifica and Camp Mather in the High Sierras. The system includes full-complex recreation centers, swimming pools, golf courses, sports fields and numerous small-to-medium-sized clubhouses that offer a variety of sports- and arts-related recreation programs for people of all ages. Included in the Department’s responsibilities are Golden Gate Park, Coit Tower, the Marina Yacht Harbor, the San Francisco Zoo and Lake Merced. In 2017, San Francisco became the first and only city in the nation where all residents have access to a park within a 10-minute walk, a direct result of the Department’s commitment to increasing and improving parkland in the city.