WHAT DOES BLACK HISTORY MONTH MEAN TO ME?
"We have a long way to go, but it may that the trip will be less lonely and more people will go along with us in trying to make this world equal and fair to everyone. ."
Frank Adams was awarded PTR Professional of the Year in 2017. Here's the PTR write-up:
Frank A. Adams has served PTR for more than two decades. As a Clinician for 10 & Under and Adult Development, Adams has hosted many PTR workshops at the Highlands Ranch Community Association in Colorado, where he is Head Professional.
Adams is also a member of the USTA Faculty, and has coached ITA Zonal teams, Special Olympics and wheelchair tennis. He conducts wheelchair clinics for OPAF and the Colorado Wheelchair Tennis Foundation. Former President of both USTA Intermountain and Colorado District, he has served on several national committees, including Diversity and Inclusion, Tennis in the Parks, NJTL, Technical, Innovation, Adaptive Tennis. Adams currently serves on USTA/ITA/Colorado Diversity and Inclusion and Junior Recreation Committees. He is lead coach for the Colorado District Star Search Program.
At the grassroots level, Adams is a Past President of Denver City Park Racquet Club and serves on the Board of Directors of the Eastside Tennis Association. He was featured in Breaking the Barriers, a documentary film on the African American experience and the community at Denver's City Park, produced by the Colorado Tennis Association.
For his work with young players, Adams was inducted to the Asian Tennis League Hall of Fame. He has also been named PTR Colorado Member of the Year, USTA/ITA Volunteer of the Year, and was the CWTF Wheelchair Instructor of the Year twice. In 2014, Adams received the ITA Youth Tennis Ambassador Award. Adams has also been presented the USTA Colorado Arthur Ashe Award, apropos since he was introduced to PTR through the ACE Program, for which Ashe was a proponent and spokesperson.
Last year, Adams received the PTR/USTA Service to the Community Award. In September of 2015, the tennis courts at Belmont Charter School in Philadelphia were named after him and a friend who had learned to play the game through NJTL. At the court dedication ceremony, Adams was presented with a Citation from the City Council of Philadelphia that read "for his commitment to improving the lives of man … with appreciation for all you have done for God and Humanity."
Frank and his wife Judy have two children, Kylee and Nikki.
TCB: Hello Frank, where are you from, what state and city?
FA: Originally from West Philadelphia, Pa.
TCB: Did you play tennis as a child? If yes, how old were you when you got into it and who introduced you?
FA: I started tennis later than most, around age 14 or 15. It could be said that I am a product of the NJTL program, started by Arthur Ashe Jr, Charlie Pasareli in 1969 I was coached by Mr. Bill Johnson during the summer of 1974 on an NJTL Team.
TCB: Did you play tennis in high school/college?
FA: In High School, St Joseph Prep, I participated in Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field and Cross Country. After High School, I joined the Air Force, trained, and became a medical lab tech. During the six years of enlistment, I was the Head Tennis Pro at Yakota AB in Japan. I arranged base tennis tournaments as well as matches between our members and Japanese Tennis clubs. After leaving Japan I was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, Ca. where I met my wife Judy. While there I was allowed to form a team that would travel to and play tournaments in Southern California.
TCB: What are your memories growing up in regards to tennis? Who were your idols? Was it easy for you to become a tennis player?
FA: As a child growing up in Philadelphia I knew that I was very lucky and thankful for all of the opportunities that NJTL provided me, a safe environment to practice and develop my skills. I started playing tennis in the 70's, a time when legendary players like Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe, Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong and so many more were at the top. Even at a young age, I had a passion for reading every book and magazine that I could get my hands on. I started coaching my peers right away. I was the tennis coach for the Philadelphia team in the National Youth Games at age 18. At an early age, there is no doubt that Vic Braden had the biggest impact on me, his show "Tennis For the Future" taught me how to play and how to teach others.
From left: Roy Barth, Frank Adams, Dan Santorum
TCB: How do you recall growing up with tennis as an African American boy/man?
FA: My tennis journey is/has always been shaped by the realities of being black in America., I had to overcome the fear of violence, ignore prejudice, keep my head down and persevere. As a youth growing up in the 70's in Philadelphia there was always a sense that not all of us are going to make it out of here alive. Some of my friends did not do well, some did. Tennis was a way in which we could feel safe during the turbulent times of the 70's. Witnessing the protests of 2020 confirms a truth that I really already knew, that things haven't really changed and we have a long way to go, but it may be that the trip will be less lonely and more people will go along with us in trying to make this world equal and fair to everyone.
TCB: What was the reason for you moving from Pennsylvania to Colorado?
FA: The Air Force took me to many places, Texas, Japan, California twice, and finally Colorado.
TCB: When and why did you decide teaching tennis is for you and microbiology is not?
FA: I have always taught tennis, or at least from the time I first picked up a racket until now. I've often had two or three jobs and that continues today, it's just that all of my jobs revolve around tennis.
TCB: Your career as a tennis professional, community activist, innovator, and humanitarian is unparalleled. How did you do it? What drives Frank Adams year after year to teach tennis and inspire others to play or teach our sport?
FA: My parents instilled into their children a strong work ethic and an obligation to help others. I have always been willing to volunteer and help others and through that, I've been given many opportunities to grow as a professional and as a person. "The USTA's Minority Participation Committee Programs in the 90's gave me the ability and means to work with and share ideas with like-minded people throughout the country. The PTR ACE Program gave me the continuing education and support so that I had something to offer communities that didn't have access to the traditional tennis infrastructure. The staff and volunteers of the Colorado Tennis Association and the Intermountain Tennis Association have supported me in an ongoing effort to make the game more welcoming and available to diverse communities. Dan Santorum, Kirk Anderson, and Allen Kiel have been great mentors over the years and have kept me going in the right direction over the years.
TCB: How do you like working at Highlands Ranch? What are your challenges there?
FA: I have been the head tennis professional for the Highlands Ranch Community Association for twenty years. The community has supported all of the things that I value. Members of the community have helped me teach inner-city tennis programs, wheelchair tennis clinics, Special Olympics sent clothing to Africa, and countless other things. The challenge that we have is that we don't have the amount of courts that we needed to support the increased size and need of our tennis community. I oversee facilicities that have 6 indoor courts and 13 outdoor courts.
TCB: Are you using the USTA's Net Generation? If yes, how does it work for you?
FA: We use some of the components of Net Generation. It provides a common starting point for my staff. We utilize some of the curriculum and the app. for some of our classes. I copy the Link to Net Generation on our Denver Star Search page, during the Pandemic it has been a great way to keep our kids engaged. The staff and I spend a lot of time discussing how and when to utilize the resources that are provided through the Net Generation Portal.
TCB: Why are not more African American kids picking up the game of tennis in your opinion? What do we have to do to entice more Black kids into our sport?
Photo: Barry Gutierrez
FA: We are seeing more African Americans, especially girls. Tennis provides more economic opportunities for women as a professional than any other support. I think that sport is still too expensive to play and compete in for many people, not just African Americans. Money is and has always been the biggest barrier.
TCB: The same questions apply to Black tennis teachers? How can we attract more men or women to teach the sport?FA: In many ways "Money is the root of all evil." There need to be more resources and financial aid to help recruit minorities into teaching and umpiring. Many Black coaches who are working at the grassroots are working in Parks and Recreation, an important part of any plan to grow the game, for a modest salary. The process of becoming a good tennis player is long and expensive, we have to make sure there is value to completing that process. Without a doubt, we need to have more women at all levels of tennis. We need to build aggressive systems that recruit, support, and mentor women. I think every club manager, tennis director should have a plan of action for having a workforce that is inclusive.
TCB: What does Black History Month mean to you? Reviewing your life experiences as a Black man, and maybe even in light of the 2020 happenings.
FA: My tennis journey is/has always been shaped by the realities of being black in America. I had to overcome the fear of violence, ignore prejudice, keep my head down, and persevere. As a youth growing up in the 70's in Philadelphia there was always a sense that not all of us are going to make it out of here alive. Some of my friends did not do well, some did. Tennis was a way in which we could feel safe during the turbulent times of the 70's. Witnessing the protests of 2020 confirms a truth that I really already knew, that things haven't really changed and we have a long way to go, but it may that the trip will be less lonely and more people will go along with us in trying to make this world equal and fair to everyone.
Photo: Elliott Wenzler
TCB: What are your best tennis memories?
FA: -Subbing for Arthur Ashe at a Denver Recreation Center
-Helping to bring the Native American Tennis Championship to Denver
-Teaching a Wheelchair Tennis Clinic at the Althea Gibson Tennis Center in North Carolina
-Teaching the first tennis class for kids at Yakota Air Base in Japan
-Being told that I was going to be inducted into the Denver Asian League
-Teaching on a Mini tennis court during Arthur Ashe Day
-Officiating at the Southern Special Olympics
-The first Intermountain Star Search Camp bringing together minority kids from Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and Idaho.
-A tennis Camp at Boise State hosted by Greg Patton bringing together minority kids from Intermountain, Northern California, and the Pacific Northwest.
-Volunteering at the Native American Indian Recreation Center in Denver
TCB: Have you played pickleball? Do you like it?
FA: I have not played pickleball. I simply haven't had the time. I held a pickleball certification two years ago at my facility in Highlands Ranch. It's on my radar and I expect that I will one day get certified in it.
TCB: What is your tennis racquet of choice?
FA: I play with the Head Extreme. I played with the Head Professional when I was younger. I spent 10 years sponsored by Dunlop (200g) and 10 years with Prince (Black). Both companies were very good to me and helped with my inner-city programs. I am happy to be back with Head, it is like a homecoming. The staff has been incredibly supportive and professional.
TCB: Thank you, Frank.
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