MILWAUKEE — Tennis is a game that can be enjoyed at just about any age and for the past 38 years, Coach Robert Rush provided free tennis classes to Milwaukee youth. At North Division High School, over 50 kids are involved in learning the fundamentals of the game during the summer months.
"Bader Philanthropies was proactive with this part of the program and they're still proactive. They give us a grant each year," said Rush.
Coach Rush, a retired MPS teacher, recruits collegiate-level tennis coaches to help him assist with the students, like Terrence Paynes who has been playing since 1978.
"I give the children an opportunity to do something conducive during the summer other than being out here on these sometimes dangerous streets of Milwaukee," said Paynes.
Kids learn life lessons, especially in underserved communities where tennis is not always the first sport of choice.
"When you think about Richard Williams and what he did in the central city, it's the same thing that we're doing right now in an infested area, except we don't see the infestation around here, we have been focused on developing the children. We're giving back to the community," said Rush.
The success of the Williams sisters definitely played a huge role in attracting girls and young women of color to the sport, like Mariah who is a big fan of Serena Williams.
"I really like how she serves the ball 'cause she's really powerful," said Mariah.
Another perk of the game? It's good for your health. According to the U.S. Tennis Association, playing just three hours a week can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by 57 percent.
"There are many benefits to the game of tennis. There are the health benefits, you can lower your cholesterol, it can help prevent stroke and hypertension. Also there's the boosting of brain power. And this is a lifelong game, so whether you're 2 or 72 you can be out here on the court."
Thomas Haslett's 9-year-old son T.J. has participated in the program all summer long.
"He can't really do full contact sports, so this is great. A couple hours in the morning, it's good socialization for him, he's around his peers," said Haslett.
Kids like T.J. and Mariah know that when it comes to learning the game, it doesn't happen overnight. "It's a work in progress and you always have to keep trying to get better, " said Mariah.
The legendary Arthur Ashe, who was the first black player selected to the U.S. Davis Cup and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open left us with these words, "Start where you are...use what you have".
That's exactly what these young people are doing under the guidance of Coach Bob Rush!