They call it Tennis Prom.
In early June, William Tennent High School hosted its seventh annual mixed doubles tournament, bringing together kids from the tennis team with other friends, family members and even faculty for a team-based tennis tournament.
Many of the kids call it Tennis Prom, and to tournament organizer Molly Leahy, it’s one of the year’s biggest — and most interesting — highlights.
“When it first started, I thought it would just be the tennis team and a few colleagues,” said Leahy, who coaches tennis and teaches English at William Tennent. “I didn’t realize that it would grow so much.”
The event started as a way to get the tennis team engaged in a social, fun tournament that could involve people from throughout the school.
“We started this by encouraging kids to bring their parents or play with their friends not on the team,” Leahy said. “They ran with it.”
On their own, the kids started taking it to another level.
Many of the players began inviting friends from other sports teams to be their doubles teammates. Others invited their parents, or even played with teachers. These days, it’s common to see athletes and club members from all types of school activities join.
Some teams even began designing their own costumes and coming up with creative team names.
“It got so crazy that I started giving prizes not just for the play, but for the costumes,” Leahy said.
This year’s tournament winner, Ariel Goldberg, invited her father to be her partner.
The tournament is a way to introduce tennis to those who may not have played, or may not have had the opportunity to play. One of the semi-finalists of this year’s tournament, for example, is a cross-country runner, who is busy training during tennis season. She could, one day, become an avid tennis player because of experiences like this. And to Leahy, that’s the point.
“We want to promote tennis as a sport you can play until you’re 80,” said Leahy, an avid player who has been involved with tennis since she was 9. “In some other sports, there might be a finite limit to how long you can truly compete. You can play tennis forever.”
Leahy said the tournament wouldn’t be possible without John Senske, who also coaches and teaches at Tennent. Senske designs the brackets and keeps the tournament running smooth.
Recently, William Tennent High School received a grant from USTA Middle States to help develop grassroots programs in the community that will help grow the sport.
For more information on USTA Middle States grants, click here.