For the second consecutive year, the “Return The Serve Fun Day Presented By Chase” event was hosted by First Break Academy and took place last Friday at StubHub Center in Carson.
First Break Academy, in partnership with Chase Bank and the USTA Foundation, served as the local L.A. host of the event, which celebrated Chase’s continued commitment to the USTA Foundation and to the National Junior Tennis & Learning Network. The USTA announced recently that the USTA Foundation, in partnership with Chase, is contributing $150,000 total to 10 NJTL chapters nationwide.
First Break Academy based in Carson was one of the 10 NJTL programs awarded a $15,000 grant from the USTA Foundation, the national charitable organization of the USTA.
“Every First Break play event is special and this is by far our Super Bowl of Play Days thanks to Chase and the USTA Foundation,” said Peggy Bott, First Break Academy co-founder and executive director. “We love to throw a big party and the StubHub Center is built for it.”
Bott said more than sixty junior tennis players and over one hundred area school children took part in the day, which included on-court games, a tug of war, dunk tank, hit for prizes and a free pizza lunch and ice cream snack.
“It’s incredible to witness the generous support and participation of all the pros that came out to hit with the kids,” Bott said. “It was a fantastic day and all the kids just had a blast. It’s definitely a team effort. SCTA, EXOs, MCC members, parents, junior mentors, and the many friends of First Break deserve credit for today’s success.
Here is a sampling of what those attending had to say:
Nicole Gibbs, WTA player:
“This is awesome. It’s just so great to be out here and see all these kids playing tennis. There’s just a lot of good energy. First Break has done amazing things, and you can see the improvement every time I come out here. There are eight kids here who I saw two months ago who don’t look near like the same player they were there. You can tell the kids are passionate about working hard and getting better.”
Jared Donaldson, ATP player:
“I think it’s a great event and inspires a lot of kids to hopefully pick up a racquet and learn the game of tennis and really enjoy the game. You learn so many life skills by playing tennis and I don’t think tennis gets enough credit for that.”
Jason Collins, former NBA player:
“I grew up playing every sport, and my two favorites are basketball and tennis so any chance I get to work with these kids to get them familiar with those sports, I’m all for it.”
Steve Johnson, ATP player:
“We are lucky enough to be professional athletes and to be able to give back and see the smiling faces of the kids and trying to get them interested in tennis any way we can is so worth it. I remember being a kid and having the pros at the time doing the same thing, so it feels good to give back.”
Taylor Fritz, ATP player:
“I live nearby and train here so it’s just makes sense to come out and help because it’s for a good cause. These kids learn so much from hard work to discipline to even making friends. All the closest friends that I have back home are all through sports back home when I was younger.”
Daniel Nguyen, ATP player:
“Being able to rally with them and see how good they are; this is just a super fun day. I think sports teaches the kids discipline and character and finding that balance between sports and school. This is my first time doing this and I’ll come back and do it anytime I’m back in California.”
Kate Schoff, JPMorgan Chase Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment Marketing
“We love this event and it’s our fifth year putting on Return the Serve. First Break Academy puts on such a great event. It’s just meant to give the kids in the community a fun day of tennis and play. This is something we are really invested in and will continue to put dollars to.”
First Break Academy was co-founded by Bott, Rick Buchta and Marc Lucero. First Break was named the USTA Southern California Section’s Community Organization Service Award winner in 2017.