Spotlight Nonprofit: Making kids “TOPS” of their game on and off the court

LatinaLista — Sports has long been considered the “great equalizer.” No matter a person’s financial background, ethnicity or race, if he/she had the ability and the persistence it was believed they could make it in that sport. Yet, there are some sports, because of their cost, special equipment and playing facilities, automatically bar some children from participating.

Tennis can be one of those sports but a Washington state non profit wants to make sure it isn’t.

TOPS or Tennis Outreach Programs specifically target underserved and at-risk kids whom they feel would benefit from learning the sport and the skills that can help them both on and off the court. TOPS was founded in 2003 by Marceil Whitney, a tennis educator who has taught and coached tennis for over 36 years.

Whitney’s dream is to bring the sport to as many low-income, at-risk and English as a Second Language children, ages 3-18, as possible. For that reason, TOPS doesn’t turn away any child because of their financial situation. About 60 percent of the children who participate in TOPS do so on scholarship. In addition to providing lessons and free racquets to the children, the organization plans on providing after-school tutoring and fitness programs as they launch a new facility in Kirkland, Washington.

However, TOPS doesn’t stop with only the children. The whole family benefits from TOPS during an annual event where TOPS organizers provide free dinners to the economically challenged families of their students.

Regardless of their performances on the court, TOPS organizers are already seeing victories among their participants. According to survey results, the program’s students:

  • Do better in school
  • Have better school attendance
  • Demonstrate higher level of personal confidence
  • Display fewer behavior problems

Outcomes like that take the Grand Slam to a whole new level.

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