Sitting at the perimeter of Faulkner Tennis Courts on Tuesday the 10th of July, over forty young students of the Chester Boys and Girls Club and the Loomis Racquet Academy listened to James Blake as he introduced himself. Some recognized Blake as a former number four tennis player in the world, while others had never played tennis before. All, however, were high spirited and prepared to play tennis during an hour-long clinic. Blake currenly plays for the Philadelphia Freedoms, a member of the World TeamTennis league.
Coach of Swarthmore College's women's tennis team, Jeremy Loomis invited Blake to conduct a tennis clinic on campus, believing Blake's accomplished tennis skills and inspiring background story would be tremendous attributes to share to members of the greater community. "He's not only a successful athlete but he's Harvard educated and also came back from a pretty severe injury just a few years ago. He's a great role model for kids," said Loomis.
One of Blake's own first forays into tennis began as a child at the Harlem Junior Tennis Program and he was further inspired to pursue tennis after hearing Arthur Ashe speak. Blake seemed eager to do what he could to carry the inspiration forward. "I love helping out with programs like this; making more fans, making more players, and hopefully exposing them to something they're not always exposed to," he said.
During the clinic, participants practiced under observation and assistance from Blake and practiced shots with him. Towards the end of the clinic, Blake competed with coaches of the tennis academy, allowing the athlete to demonstrate his strong forehand and impressive skills such as hitting the ball between his legs.
At the end of the clinic Blake took part in group photos and gave autographs, even inviting all participants to his match against the Sacramento Capitals that night at which he would be the team's marquee player.
Most of the members of the Chester Boys and Girls Club were enthusiasts of sports such as basketball, baseball and football. "I most enjoyed playing with James and learning how to play tennis. This is my first time," said Zakee Griffin. "I play basketball but I'd like to play tennis again."