Creating Scholar Athletes: Tennis & Education

by Portland After-School Tennis & Education
Apr 8, 2011

Portland After-School Tennis & Education ROCKS!

Tennis is Fun!
Tennis is Fun!

   PAST&E Inc. recognized as the #1 Overall Chapter in Development

First Serve Inc. based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida has announced Portland After-School Tennis & Education (PAST&E) as the highest ranked chapter in development in the country. Ratings are based on 12 months of qualitative and quantitative data, in the areas of retaining participants, report card collection, USTA tennis participation, and life skills graduations. Moreover, out of 16 Chapters-in-Development during the 2009-2010 Program Year, PAST&E was 1 of only 3 Chapters-in-Development in the United States to earn the highest 4-STAR rating! 

Much of our success can be attributed to the PAST&E Tennis Academy student athletes who are annually competing in the First Serve National Student Athlete Competition. This competition combines report card and tournament results that determine points that students can earn throughout the year. The winners at the end of the competition year earn over $34,000 in annual college scholarship funds.

Please take the time to visit the below link and notice that the majority of student/athletes in the top 50 in both Boys & Girls divisions are members of Portland After School Tennis & Education.

PAST&E Inc. Students Awarded Annual Arthur Ashe Essay Contest

For the Pacific-Northwest Division PAST&E Inc. represented 4 of the 9 essay contest winners, and PAST&E Inc. received an award from the United States Tennis Association for having the most essays completed by our students.

Our winners:

Girls’ 15/16
Jenny Truong, Portland - Portland After-School Tennis & Education NJTL

Boys’ 15/16
Tri Tran, Portland - Portland After-School Tennis & Education NJTL

Girls’ 17/18
Sara Yon, Portland - Portland After-School Tennis & Education NJTL

Boys' 17/18

Shane Wilson, Portland - Portland After-School Tennis & Education NJTL

For a detailed look at the list of winners follow this link:

PAST&E Program Featured on KATU Channel 2

KATU Channel 2 featured Portland After-School Tennis & Education on their "Every Day Heroes' Segment. The segment highlighted the work of the PAST&E staff over the course of our 10 week Serving Up Success Summer Program. This program provided instruction to dozens of children from North Portland neighborhoods from 9am-4pm Tuesday through Friday.

PAST&E Student Hayley Cottrell 1 of 40 Selected to Attend Prestigious Leadership Camp
Hayley Cottrell spent 1 week in Georgia for the USTA staying at the campus of Emory University. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tom Hallman Jr. of the Oregonian wrote an article about Hayley's experience and the PAST&E Inc. organization as a whole.

North Portland girl learns life lessons on and off the tennis court

Published: Saturday, August 21, 2010, 5:00 AM     Updated: Saturday, August 21, 2010, 10:14 AM

 By Tom Hallman Jr., The Oregonian

View full sizeROSS WILLIAM HAMILTON/THE OREGONIANHayley Cottrell, 12, was one of 40 kids -- 20 boys and 20 girls -- selected to attend a unique tennis camp in Atlanta. The kids, chosen for their tennis skills and leadership, honed backhands and forehands, but also spent time off the court learning about life

At a North Portland tennis center, where kids spray balls while struggling to hit a basic forehand, 12-year-old Hayley Cottrell is something of a star. Not so much for her game, but for where she's been and where she's going.

Last month, Hayley was one of 40 kids from across the country chosen to attend a unique weeklong tennis camp in Atlanta. Students lived in dorms on the Emory University campus and received high-level coaching.

The young athletes also learned about life off the court. They visited diverse neighborhoods and toured CNN's headquarters, the Coca-Cola museum and the King Center, a memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

For Hayley, the visit to the memorial made the lasting impression.

"We saw a video on how blacks had to live during that time," she said during a break at the St. Johns Racquet Center. "Then, as an exercise, the coaches separated the white players from the black players and made us stay apart. None of us liked that at all. It really bothered me and made me think about what living back then had been like."

That life lesson is what distinguishes Portland After School Tennis & Education Inc., a nonprofit that rents space at the city-owned tennis center. The program began in 1996 when the United States Tennis Association started working with schools to interest underprivileged kids in tennis. The national program now has 560 chapters and serves 230,000 children.

The USTA provides funding but allows local chapters the freedom to create programs that best fit their community. In addition to teaching tennis, most offer classes in life skills. The Portland program, for example, had a summer program to help kids learn how to read.

But in 2007, the Portland program added a twist when the board recruited Danice Brown as executive director. Brown, the retired general manager of Portland's West Hills Racquet and Fitness Club, loved tennis. But after leading Global Volunteer Network projects around the world -- including South Africa, the Cook Islands and Italy -- she wanted more.

Portland After School Tennis & Education Inc.

Where: St. Johns Racquet Center, 7519 N. Burlington Ave.

Details: Free; participants must be eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.

Learn more:, 503-697-0598

Once settled into her new job, she was shocked by the number of students dropping out of high school; only 53 percent of Portland Public Schools students earn a diploma in four years. So Brown sold the board on adding an intensive education component to the tennis program.

"As opposed to bringing tennis to various schools for two hours a week," she said, "we came up with an after-school program at the center."

She converted two unused racquetball courts into classrooms and recruited University of Portland students to teach the kids that it's possible to be strong on the court and in the classroom. Participants work on serves, returns and volleys before moving to a classroom for help with reading, writing and math.

"Hitting some balls a few hours a week isn't going to make an impact in a child's life," she said. "I wanted to create something that would be life changing."

The Portland program, which still receives an annual stipend from the USTA, also gets money from the local Silver Family Foundation and relies on grants and an annual fundraiser. The program offers a year-round program for 28 children from kindergarten through high school. Brown also started a program for 20 teens who want to play competitively but weren't likely to make their high school teams. They represent the program in tennis competitions and serve as mentors to the younger kids.

"We take children at risk," Brown said. "Low income and from challenged families. We work with the teachers to determine what families will get the most benefit from this program."

Brown insists that parents or guardians attend monthly meetings at the center, and help with tasks such as bringing snacks and contributing to a community potluck. They also must bring in a child's report card so staff members can see whether the child needs help in a particular subject.

"This is a team effort," she said. "The schools, us and the family."

Families pay nothing to participate. The only requirement is that the students qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches.

"There's no sense of entitlement here," she said. "Each child must earn everything -- from the use of a racquet to the uniform -- on a point system. A child earns points for practicing, doing homework and for good behavior in the class and on the court."

Hayley's mother, Diana Dienger, said she and her husband aren't tennis players. She heard about Brown's program from a friend, and Hayley joined a year ago.

"My daughter loves everything about it," Dienger said. "She's learned how to play tennis, and she's met so many different kinds of children."

Hayley, always a good student, has kept her grades up, her mother said.

"If you don't have the grades and don't do well, you can't be in the program," Dienger said. "There's always someone there to help with the homework."

When the USTA told chapter officials about a camp for kids ages 12 to 14 with "strong character and good tennis skills," Brown encouraged Hayley to apply. The application had nothing to do with her potential as a future tennis pro. Officials wanted to know about her character. She needed recommendations from coaches, who were asked to describe how Hayley was growing into a young leader. Then Hayley had to write a letter describing her role as a leader.

"Filling it out showed all of us how responsible she's become," Dienger said. "She does volunteer work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and also works at her school's student store."

Out of 1,000 applicants, Hayley was among the 20 girls and 20 boys chosen.

"Not just because of her tennis," said Barry Ford, the USTA's director of outreach and advocacy. "These are children who are leaders."

Hayley, who lives in North Portland, said the trip was exciting.

"I got to fly on an airplane," she said. "I met kids from all over. It changed me and taught me how to be a leader."

When she returned, she told her mother that some of the coaches were great players but also lawyers and businesspeople who stressed the importance of education. She even told her mother she was ready to start class, weeks before the end of summer vacation.

Back at the tennis center, Hayley was antsy to return to the court. But she agreed to just a couple more questions.

"What am I going to do differently?" She paused. "I'm not going to be talking in class." Another pause. "Not as much. And I'm going to be respectful and not ask questions twice."

Then she was off.

--Tom Hallman Jr. 

Related topics: st. johns, tennis, usta




 NJTL First Serve National Student Athlete Competition

Khang Truong,  Portland After-School Tennis & Education, Inc. – 1st Place Winner in NJTL National Student Athlete Competition- Winner of a $5000 Academic Scholarship and trip to the US Open for Khang and his Dad!  Tri Tran, Portland After-School Tennis & Education, Inc. came in at 3rd place and was awarded a $1000 Academic Scholarship.

 2010 USTA/PNW Executive Director's Award

Danice Brown of Beaverton, Ore., was presented with the 2010 USTA/PNW Executive Director's Award. Brown is pictured above with USTA/PNW Executive Director Bill Leong.

USTA PNW TennisFest – 2010

QuickStart & 10 & Under Clinic at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center

PAST&E’s Student Athletes were there!!

 Alex Vlaski and Justin Bower are joined by three young players from Portland After-School Tennis & Education for the QuickStart Tennis Doubles Showdown held prior to the professional exhibition.

Drew Carney Show – Channel 8, Portland, OR 

Oct 28, 2010 – Prelude to our Annual Fundraiser –Sip, Serve & Celebrate

Portland After-School Tennis & Education

How a North Portland after-school program turns 'at risk' kids into tennis stars

Published: Friday, February 25, 2011, 6:19 AM     Updated: Friday, February 25, 2011, 8:08 AM

 By Douglas Perry, The Oregonian

regonianPAST&E's first after-school class.

Usually I stick with the ATP and WTA tours on this blog, but I'm going local today, because a free after-school program here in Portland deserves some love from tennis fans everywhere.

Why? Because the coaches who run it are showing how tennis can make a huge difference in children's lives. The program -- Portland After-School Tennis & Education -- has been inspired by similar programs in other cities (and receives generous help from the USTA), but it definitely has its own twist on things. The result: "at risk" kids improving in the classroom and at home -- and who can play some serious ball.

Dr. Spock favored being flexible.

Amy Chua, the bestselling "Tiger Mother" author, banned her daughters from watching TV.

Hillary Clinton advocated getting a village to help out.

Or, to ensure you have a happy and successful child, you could offer up a tennis racket. Especially if the child is "at risk" -- that is, from a low-income or broken home.

Tennis? At first blush, it doesn't seem like a good fit for troubled kids. After all, tennis is a difficult sport -- even for world-class players. Last spring, after spewing 69 unforced errors in a two-set loss, French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova grumbled: "I play tennis for, like, 17 years and I still cannot put this little ball in this huge court. It's frustrating."

That it is. And seeing as you've surely seen footage of tennis great John McEnroe throwing a fit worthy of the most out-of-control toddler, you must wonder if you really want to subject your child to such frustrations.


"Coach Danice" has thought of that. "With our high-school players it's different, but with the younger kids we don't get into the competitive aspect," says Danice Brown, the executive director of Portland After-School Tennis & Education (PAST&E) at North Portland's St. Johns Racquet Center. "It's all about hitting and moving."

But the innovative program does zero in on methods that would be familiar to any player at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, the famous Florida school that spits out top-ranked junior players like ... well, a ball machine. Brown is the first to admit she can be as tough as Bollettieri, a former Army officer.

"I'm strict. It's the only way," she says.

"Tennis demands a certain level of life skills, just the rules of the game and the etiquette of the game," she adds. "So tennis is a good choice for kids who need to learn to follow directions."

And once the kids learn to follow directions, the possibilities open up. "Basically, the tennis is a medium through which we can address tutoring," says Maureen Dugan, program and development director. "We help the kids with homework, work on life skills, help them learn to respect one another." Two racquetball courts at the St. Johns facility have been transformed into permanent classrooms. Here, the children do school homework and PAST&E-specific projects in between their tennis time, all overseen by mostly 20-something -- and mostly volunteer -- coaches who are clearly devoted to their charges.

>> Listen in: Maureen Dugan on the power of PAST&E (1:15):

Or download MP3 here

"The student-athletes are more successful when it's not just tennis they're learning," adds Dugan, "but when they're learning more about themselves and what they're capable of -- in the classroom, or at home with their families, or when they're out with the public."

Indeed, PAST&E's coaches believe the program's approach can pay off in ways far beyond what the kids -- or their parents -- expect.

"If you can teach children to be respectful and follow directions, teachers will love them," Brown says matter-of-factly. "And if the teacher loves them, they at least have a head start in the classroom -- even if they're behind, even if they're struggling. It can make a big difference."

You might think that's a cynical attitude toward public-school teachers. Considering the size of classes and available resources in our schools, it also can be called realistic.  "A lot of the kids who are at risk do not fall into the category of kids that teachers want to love," Brown says.

PAST&E kids in action

 Watch video

The Portland After-School Tennis & Education program promotes fitness, discipline and personal responsibility for "at-risk" kids.

 Moving these kids into a different category -- whether the category is real or just perceived -- is key to the free program, which draws valuable support from Nike and the United States Tennis Association. Brown, who raised six children of her own, strongly believes that kids need structure -- that they want rules. Children will naturally push boundaries, but it's stressful for them when they're actually successful at it, when they're left to float in space and search out new boundaries of their own making. The young tennis players in PAST&E, Brown says, "if they know what's expected of them and they live up to that."

This is no small accomplishment. Some of these children, says Brown, face traumatic home lives. She points out one boy on court who "has a terrible situation at home. He sometimes needs someone to pull him out and talk to him. He's not necessarily misbehaving because he wants to disrupt everything. He's just a mess himself."

The rules, however, bend for no one. Either you follow directions and respect your coaches and fellow players, or you sit. "But they love playing so much," Brown says, "no one wants to sit."

Parents (or legal guardians) have to qualify for the Portland Public Schools' free or reduced lunch program for their child to join PAST&E's after-school team. (PAST&E also runs a summer program open to a broader swath of players.) And Brown makes clear that the after-school program doesn't just expect a lot from its kids. "We ask a lot of the families. Families have to attend monthly meetings. They have to pick up their kids on time. They have to take it seriously. So the parents are under scrutiny, too. We try to do parent advocacy and parent training."

The program's success is obvious as soon as you meet its 30 children, who range from kindergarten students to fifth graders. They know when to wash their hands and when to snap to attention, when to do their homework and, of course, when to grab a racket and hit the court. When a new adult is in attendance, each child approaches, holds out a hand for a good shake, and politely introduces him- or herself.

And fear not, Dr. Spock devotees, their personalities have not been squashed by this discipline. They yelp and playfully chide one another on court. One girl giggles maniacally whenever she hits the ball dead-on. And when a 9-year-old boy is told he has a heckuva forehand, he slides into a stylish end-zone strut. "Just takes practice," he says. "You just gotta practice."





USTA Jr. Team Tennis 12-and-Under Jamboree

Saturday, March 5   Noon – 3pm   St. Johns Racquet Center – Portland




Have fun, make friends, play team tennis!



CONTACT: Mark Toppe at


  • Registration Deadline: Tuesday, March 1 at Noon 


  • Designed for boys and girls from age 9 to 12 who have limited tennis experience 


  • All games and activities will be played using the QuickStart Tennis (QST) play format featuring equipment and courts tailored for a child’s size. QuickStart Tennis is played on a smaller (60-foot) court using low-compression balls designed to bounce lower and slower for kids. In addition, racquets of appropriate size will be loaned to players. 


How to register:

1. Send an email to containing: Parent/coach name, phone & email along with the player name & age.

2. Indicate in the email if you would like to volunteer for this event (see below) and if you are interested in learning more about the 12-and-Under Spring QST League.

3. Bring a signed copy of the player waiver to the event.


Parents Needed to Join the Fun!

We need parent volunteers to help this event be successful.

The USTA Pacific Northwest will provide training to all parent volunteers at the event.

And you can learn more about the new USTA Jr. Team Tennis 12-and-Under Spring QST League.

Volunteers are asked to commit to help set up the courts, help kids on court and most of all,


PAST&E Student Athletes Earn their Spot on the first JTT Teams…

Coaches...Your Teams! 


Junior Team Tennis Team and this group would also be considered for Rookie Level Tournaments. 
Team Name:  Terminetters     Team Color: Red
Co-Coach Fitz - Co-Coach Moe
Junior Team Tennis Team 
Team Name:  Racqueteers  Team Color:  Blue
Co-Coach Trenton - Co- Coach Alyssa
Player Roster:
Junior Team Tennis Team -
Co-Coach John - Co-Coach Maria - Co-Coach Brendan
Team Name:  Kids On The Court   Team Color:  Green
Player Roster:
Mikey C.
Michael W.

Great Point!!  TennisFest 2010
Great Point!! TennisFest 2010
Mariel Zagunis - Gold Medalist visits PAST&E
Mariel Zagunis - Gold Medalist visits PAST&E



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Organization Information

Portland After-School Tennis & Education

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Danice Brown
Executive Director
Portland, OR United States
$5,187 raised of $10,000 goal
87 donations
$4,813 to go
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