On August 24, Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day kicked off the 2013 U.S. Open Tennis Championships in Flushing Meadows, NY. Activities included obstacle courses, face painting, musical performances, but most of all, tennis!
Arthur Ashe became the first African-American male to win a major tennis tournament when he won the U.S. Open in 1968. Ashe is still the only African American to have won the men’s singles title at the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, or the Australian Open. He was elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985, and was one of the founders of the National Junior Tennis League, now called the National Junior Tennis and Learning Network. Ashe hoped the league would be “a way to gain and hold the attention of young people in the inner cities and other poor environments so that we can teach them about matters more important than tennis,” reports the Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day website.
A Tennis Tradition
The first Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day was held in 1993, the year that Ashe passed away, and continues to take place on the Saturday before the U.S. Open. At this year’s event, kids purchased gigantic tennis balls and got autographs from their favorite tennis players or singers after tennis lessons on the courts. Celebrities like Ariana Grande, Austin Mahone, Coco Jones, Fifth Harmony, and Lawson performed during a show at the stadium. Fans were pleasantly surprised when Grande brought Nathan Sykes of the Wanted on to the stage to perform their duet “Almost Is Never Enough.”
“We’re all big tennis fans,” Rylan Fletcher, a member of the band Lawson told TFK. “We started to play when we were younger, but moved on to playing music when we realized that we weren’t very good at it.”
Coco Jones offered advice for TFK readers. “I think that it is important to stay driven,” she says. “You can’t give up when people tell you no. You have to keep trying, because all you need is one person to say yes.”
The biggest surprise was when First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage during the show. She shared a meaningful message with kids. “When I was your age, I didn’t have tennis role models, I didn’t live in a community where there were any tennis courts, and quite frankly I don’t think I knew a single person when I was young who even knew how to play tennis,” she said, surrounded by four-time U.S. Open champion Serena Williams, other U.S. Open players, and four-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Missy Franklin. “You’re going to learn things like hard work, teamwork, discipline. That’s why playing sports is so important, and that’s what sports teaches you. It teaches you that if you keep on practicing, and giving 100 percent to anything you do, you will get better at it, and that’s not just true on the tennis court, but that’s also true in the classroom as well.”