Booker T. Washington built the first clay tennis courts in the Alabama on the front lawn of the Academic building on the campus of Tuskegee Normal in 1890. Twenty Six years later — in 1916 — Tuskegee Normal was one of the founding members of the (ATA) American Tennis Association. (Integrated tennis play was not allowed anywhere in the USA.) 

When I left the Tuskegee Institute community in 1960 there were four member clubs. When I returned in 2014, there were no tennis clubs and only two active adult tennis players. The Tuskegee Institute Community Tennis Club was founded in 2016 to insure that the 100 year Legacy of ATA Tennis would continue in the Tuskegee Institute community for another 100 years and beyond.

Last year, the club participated in two ATA sanctioned tournaments. This year we have competed in two events and we are now preparing to attend the 100th Anniversary of the ATA Nationals in Baltimore.

Aaron Bates represented the Tuskegee Institute Community Tennis Club in the "Wimbledon in Valdosta" tournament June 10-11. Aaron was introduced to the game by watching his grandmother play with her friends since the age of 3. This was his first out-of-state competition in the Boys 14-and-under category.

He entered the first match without formal instruction. We left Tuskegee at 4 a.m. (4-hour travel time) arrived 9 a.m. The first match started at 10 a.m. He lost 0-6, 1-6. He played the 2nd match at 3 p.m. and lost 6-2, 4-6, 8-10 (tie breaker) after receiving 30 minutes of coaching before the second match. It was a long non-stop day.

He commented, "I learned that you have to be physically fit to play tennis. You also have to be conditioned to play in the heat of the day."

Aaron has a good attitude, which is why we are recruiting young and old, new and former tennis players or spectators to join the effort to revive the American Tennis Association in Macon County.

The fact that he showed up and was willing to compete made us proud. Our "Tennis Development Program" will assist him and others like him an opportunity to "earn a College tennis scholarship.” Aaron understood that although he didn't win his matches this time, there will be a next time and a different outcome.

He stated, "I dug down deep to compete and I kept my head up after leaving the court. This trip wasn't about winning, it was about learning the game and having fun."

We can all learn while having fun, the winning will come with "Practice. Practice, Practice".

Tuskegee Institute Community Tennis Club team needs additional assistance to attend the 100th ATA Nationals Tournament in Baltimore (July 29 through Aug. 5). Online entries deadline is July 7, 2017. The travel fundraising deadline has passed but donations are still being accepted.

Donations can be made in four ways:

1. Online to: www.naturesgardenvp.org/donate. Scroll down to Tuskegee Institute Community Tennis Club Note: TICTC 2017 Tournament Campaign

2. Call Larry King Sr. (914-329-9292) to pick up your cash or check

3. Mail your donation to: TICTC PO Box 670 Tuskegee Institute, AL 36087. Make check or MO payable to: Nature's Garden VP Note: TICTC 2017 Tournament Campaign

4. Join Nature's Garden Water Club or Shady Grove's Blueberry Patch "Delivering the Goods "Healthy Community Cooperative Distribution System."

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