By Ashley Marshall, USTAFoundation.com
The Jimmy Evert Merit Scholarship awarded thousands of dollars to deserving under-resourced youngsters last year. Now it hopes to have an even bigger impact in developing America’s next group of champions on and off the court.
The scholarship was established to honor the legacy of longtime coach Jimmy Evert, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 91. Evert spent more than 50 years coaching in Florida and is most widely known as father to 18-time women’s singles Grand Slam champion and former world No.1 Chris Evert.
The scholarships award between $5,000 and $10,000 to selected tennis players between ninth and 11th grades. The money is used toward private coaching and tuition, tournament fees and travel. It also provides two weeks of free coaching at the Evert Academy, with the option for additional weeks at a discounted rate. The scholarship, which runs on the academic year from September to August, also helps pair players with mentors to help them get into the top colleges of their choice.
Williams, Casabon and Huynh will all again receive scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year, along with eighth grader Kylin Sadler, sophomore Masaki Posey and junior Caleb Strother.The players are hand-selected by Jimmy Evert’s son, John, who helps run the Evert Academy and coordinates the Merit scholarship.
The Evert Family previously partnered with the USTA Foundation, USTA Player Development and local NJTL chapters to establish NJTL Excellence Teams.There are currently 12 such teams across the country that have identified close to 200 promising student-athletes. These athletes are identified and selected due to their hard work, talent, perseverance and grit.
The USTA’s high performance program brings in USTA Foundation excellence teams to its annual camp. Each team brings two players to the camp and John Evert selects up to six players he feels would benefit most from the Jimmy Evert Merit Scholarship.
Chris Evert said the scholarship was a great way to honor the legacy of her father, who taught her and her four siblings to play tennis at the Holiday Park facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Holiday Park was the mecca of tennis before academies started,” she said. “There were no academies in those days. Holiday Park was a public facility and my dad charged $5 a lesson. Ladies Day was on Thursdays, and there were clinics for the kids and we’d have 100 kids out on the courts in the summer. You didn’t need to have money – it was a sport for everybody at that time and my dad opened his arms to anybody at any economic level."
“My dad was a very low-key, humble, hard-working guy, and we didn’t come from a wealthy family. He made it happen for all of us – two turned pro and three got scholarships to college and were all No. 1 at their college.”
The six-time US Open champion said she hopes the scholarship fund will continue to have a positive impact on American tennis in much the same way the Evert Academy had decades ago.
“In 1973, we had seven kids from Holiday Park who played at Wimbledon,” she said. “They were all under 21 years old. That was the stamp on the fact that Holiday Park was the mecca, the academy before the academy."
“When I was No. 1 in the world, I asked my dad why he started all of us playing tennis. I thought his answer would be so we could travel the world or play tournaments, but his answer was that he wanted to keep us off the street. He always felt like idle time was dangerous for kids. I thought it was a very unsexy, unattractive answer, but as I became a parent, I understood exactly what he was staying. Don’t we all want our kids to be occupied and to have goals and have something to reach for when they’re young kids?”