Each week we visit our Champions of Southern California Tennis – those who go above and beyond to promote and grow the game throughout SoCal and beyond. These individuals and organizations deliver the game of tennis to a variety of audiences, often in places where the significance of tennis goes far beyond the court itself. As we share their stories with you, we commend their ongoing efforts to grow the game and make positive, life-changing impacts on those they touch.
The Joy of Athletics Foundation, Inc. has a compelling approach to introducing children to the game of tennis. Through its “Dance of Tennis Program,” children in the inner city (ages of 7-11) are able to play tennis with the incorporation of dance, music, yoga, and visualizations. Along with teaching tennis to children, the program also encourages life skills, such as self-respect, cooperation, and everyday skills. Dance of Tennis emphasizes the aspiration that all participants are able to choose to attend college or another form of higher education.
Dance of Tennis was founded by Dr. Jena Marcovicci in 1991. A former touring pro and sports psychologist, Marcovicci teamed up with LA’s Best After School Enrichment, the University of Southern California, and Volkl Rackets, where the program has been going strong for the past 26 years.
“We want to offer the Dance of Tennis Program to as many kids as possible in order to make Los Angeles the tennis capital of America,” said Dance of Field Director of Los Angeles Margo Marcovicci.
The program provides a captivating way for students to learn the basics of tennis while having fun. It also aspires to “awaken the imagination and ignite a child’s interest in being alive.”
Dance of Tennis instructs participants to view opponents as partners, rather than enemies and demonstrates that there is no such thing as failure, instead encouraging experimentation and taking risks on the tennis court. Dance of Tennis advises children that winning means playing one’s best tennis and not necessarily having the highest score. Of course, the program also wants participants to visualize the mechanics of each stroke and have fun through tennis, music, and dance.
Since its founding, Dance of Tennis has held a training session at the University of Southern California for 25 staff members of LA’s Best. After completing the training, the 25 LA’s Best staff members join the Dance of Tennis team, teaching sixty children the Dance of Tennis at a different school each day for a week. At the end of the week on that Saturday, the University welcomes 150 students to participate in the program on the USC tennis courts.
Tennis has had a positive impact on the creators of Dance of Tennis. They said, “It is the motivating force that inspires us to create a program for teaching tennis to children, kids that might not otherwise get the chance to enjoy our wonderful sport.”
Through this idea, Dance of Tennis Program strives to help children learn to cooperate, trust, and work with other people their age.