Gerald Mathews is head tennis coach at Calabasas High School and owner of Team G tennis, where he works with nationally ranked junior and college players. Hope Gardens Family Center in L.A. is an unlikely spot to find such an elite coach.
Part of Union Rescue Mission, the center is a transitional living facility offering shelter and services for mothers and children experiencing homelessness. Mathews’ wife, Cassandra Walker, has been involved with Hope Gardens for many years, and this year Mathews decided to offer tennis camps to the children there. “I wish that I’d had someone who brought tennis to me a little earlier,” says Mathews, who makes it his mission to reach children who might not otherwise have a chance to learn the game.
Among the 80 who participated in Mathews’ camps at Hope Gardens, three stood out. Devon and Mary, both 9, were especially attentive and picked up the game quickly. Cameron, age 13, told Mathews she had played tennis before, but had to give it up due to family circumstances. “They just were some of the better athletes in the group,” says Mathews. “They had kind of like a sparkle in their eye.” Mathews and Walker decided to give these three a hand.
Together, they rounded up equipment and funds and created a $9,600 scholarship to allow all three to attend an eight-week Team G summer tennis camp that included footwork training, clinic drills and match play. “They got to do what kids that are trying to do this at the highest level do. They got to see the standards,” Mathews says.
He and Walker have partnered with USTA Southern California to keep children from Hope Gardens connected with a program in Sylmar, where they can continue to play. They will be offering another camp for these kids during the holiday break, and will award scholarships again in the summer. Eventually, they would like to provide as many as 40 per year. “We want to help more kids,” Mathews says. “I want to reach people who don’t traditionally know about tennis. I don’t want resources to stop them from pursuing it. I want more than just the 1 percent to come out and dominate the tennis court.”
For more information, visit www.teamGtennis.com or call 323-686-TEAM.