The Play Tennis Gainesville Juneteenth Tennis Festival, held on June 29 at Westside Park, was a vibrant celebration of health, wellness, and unity through the sport of tennis. This event brought the Gainesville community together, offering a variety of activities and opportunities for all ages and skill levels. Participants enjoyed tennis skills challenges, received tennis instruction, engaged in point play, and much more, ensuring that there was something for everyone. 

Before the festival, USTA Florida hosted a Community Coach workshop, which saw an impressive turnout of 13 attendees, showing the community’s diversity. The training focused on the After School Program curriculum, with a special emphasis on using red and orange balls. This curriculum is designed to make tennis accessible and enjoyable for younger players and adult beginners, helping them to develop their skills in a supportive environment. 

George Henry, the Director of Tennis at PTG, spoke about the objectives of the Juneteenth Tennis Festival and the importance of it in the community. He explained that the event aimed to celebrate the history and impact of Juneteenth while providing the community with a day of tennis activities. Additionally, the festival served as an introduction to the Community Coach Workshop, offering participants the chance to learn coaching skills and contribute to the local tennis scene. Henry emphasized the importance of reintroducing the Gainesville community to PTG, highlighting the range of services and programs available, and introducing new staff members, including Head Pro, Ken Collins. 

Collins is excited to be with PTG after spending some time playing professionally. He shared his vision for the future of tennis in Florida and believes that PTG is poised to play a significant role in the sport’s development, particularly in community settings. “I see a very large role for PTG because tennis is going back to the communities,” he said. He added that country clubs mostly cater primarily to those who can afford it. “When you can get into the parks and recreations and get them involved with tennis, I think it’s a big role, especially if we develop the kids to the level, I think we can,” he said. 

The Juneteenth Tennis Festival saw more than 55 people enjoying multiple aspects of tennis. It was a celebration of community, diversity, and progress. Henry discussed the significance of hosting events that celebrate strides toward equality. He pointed out that Florida, and Gainesville in particular, have a rich history of Black tennis. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Florida were among the first to introduce tennis programs, and some of the nation’s earliest tournaments with Black participants were held in the state.  

This legacy makes Gainesville an ideal location for an event like the Juneteenth Tennis Festival, which honors both the past and future of tennis in the Black community. Tennis is the best investment, especially with all the benefits you get from playing the sport. USTA Florida and Play Tennis Gainesville are committed to investing resources into the sport while promoting health, wellness, and unity.