Note: Given that yesterday was Mother's Day, we thought that this week's post required a mother's touch. Matt's Point's guest contributor is Elana Campbell.
For those who don't know me or haven't met me yet, I am Elana Campbell and am a co-founder of IJP Tennis. I am British, and grew up in a town just outside of Manchester (coincidentally, in the town where the infamous Fred Perry was born). I'm also mummy to Niamh, Zara, and Euan. This week, I'm writing as a guest contributor from the perspective of both a mother and a founder of a tennis program. For my friends who knew me back in my school days, the mere thought of me being associated with a company related to sports would have been laughable! But, I've certainly grown an appreciation for sports, and especially tennis, over the last nine years.
Rewinding back to 2008, we were living in Chicago. Niamh was 2, and Zara was just an infant. Living in the city, there wasn't much space to run around or play sports, so Niamh and Chad would play baseball, with a plastic bat and soft balls, in the atrium of our apartment complex. Before she turned 3, Niamh was hitting pitched baseballs--pretty good hand-eye coordination! In the autumn of that year, we made the trans-Atlantic move to London, and we found ourselves only a few tube stops from the hallowed "All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club" (aka Wimbledon)! With no baseball leagues in the UK, we started Niamh in a park district tennis class. She could really hit the ball...holding the racquet like a baseball bat! The coaches helped rid of her of the baseball technique!
Niamh loved tennis, so we kept her playing. We went to Wimbledon and the ATP World Tour Finals, and became bigger fans of the sport. We eventually joined a club that had indoor courts to allow Niamh to play during the winter. That's where we met Matt. Niamh was 4, and we had never heard of the Red/Orange/Green/Yellow (ROGY) progression. Once we saw her play at a Red Ball lesson, we were sold! Matt coached Niamh (with Zara as the ball girl) until we moved back to the US in 2012.
On our return to the US, we were shocked at the lack of enthusiasm for the ROGY system. The US makes adaptations for children's baseball, soccer, and football--why not tennis!? Chad and I were quite frustrated and disappointed, but realised that there was a way to ensure that our girls' great start in tennis wouldn't get derailed. We created IJP Tennis, and asked Matt to join us. We started by developing junior programs for tennis clubs, first in Chicago and then in Arizona. Last October, we started "IJP Tennis" as our own operation.
That's our history. And in that history, there's something much more important than a chronology of events, and something more than just the sport of tennis. It's about family, community, common interest, support, and an outlet. IJP Tennis was created for our children. We've met some great people through tennis, and have great memories. Also, our son Euan, who is now 6 years old, was diagnosed with autism in 2015. Chad and I realised how important tennis was for both of our girls, as a place for them to escape, to be with friends, and just to whack the ball as hard as they can to release the stresses of living with a special-needs brother. As parents, we're happy that IJP Tennis is there for our girls, and if other families feel only a bit of this happiness, that makes it even better.
We hope that, for you, IJP Tennis is what it has been and continues to be for us: tennis and family. The children supporting each other, being honest with the coaches and during tournaments, receiving and giving constructive feedback, making friends, having fun, and becoming the best tennis player possible. As IJP Tennis approaches its 5th anniversary, Chad and I know that the relationship we have built with Matt over the years is about much more than tennis. It's been about setting out to achieve something great and being there for each other along the way. That's what we want for all of our tennis players. We want them to become the best tennis players they can be, while looking forward to coming to practice, improving their game, and creating lasting friendships around the love of a sport.
As far as Euan, he's not much of a tennis player yet. But, we've got great things planned for him and other children in the autism community. Watch this space!
Matt's Point (get it? Match Point!) is Matt's blog covering all the goings-on at IJP Tennis.