Thousands of young tennis players across the country entered and only 10 came away winners of the 19th Annual USTA Foundation NJTL Essay Contest. One boy and one girl from each age division (18U, 16U, 14U, 12U and 10U) took home the coveted prize- round-trip tickets and hotel for two to New York City and VIP status in the President’s Box during the 2017 Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day on August 26, the weekend before the US Open.
Aditya Kaul “Adi” Gupta, of Brookline, MA and representing Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center in Dorchester, MA, was selected as the Boys’ 10 and Under division winner for his inspiring story on what tennis has taught him and on playing the game the right way.
“We couldn’t have had a better winner for the 10 and Under division of the NJTL Essay Contest to represent our New England Section than Adi,” said Chantal Roche, Diversity and Inclusion Manager for USTA New England. “His passion for the game is unparalleled and he truly exemplifies what it means to be a sportsman. We are so proud of the young man he is becoming and the example he sets for so many young players every day.”
“It feels natural to me to draw life lessons from what I learn while playing tennis. Tennis is not just about being able to hit the ball hard and win games,” Adi said. “I have learned important mental skills from tennis that I will need off the court. Those are the lessons that define a true tennis player.”
Each participant was asked to answer the following question in 350 words or less: In addition to tennis, education and life skills are extremely important to the development of our youth. Which one of the three components above is most important to you, and how will it help you throughout your life?
Adi answered “life skills,” noting grit, perseverance and not letting a loss get him down as three of his biggest takeaways from tennis thus far.
“In tennis and in life, you can’t win all the time,” he wrote in his essay. “Tennis teaches me not to let a loss get me down, but to concentrate on the next point or next match, and then later think about how I can get better. I hope that this helps me develop the same skills in life.”
Adi has a true passion for tennis and has since he was just three years old when his family lived in Georgia.
“My parents tell me that when I was just a toddler, I would drag them to the Georgia Tennis courts in Decatur on our evening walk and fall asleep on the sidelines. I started playing tennis at the age of 3 on those courts,” he said.
Tennis hasn’t just become Adi’s favorite sport, but favorite activity, and it’s the time he looks forward to most when planning his day. He currently plays 4-5 days a week, 3-4 of which are at Sportsmen’s.
“Sportsmen’s has exposed me to a very competitive environment with lots of good players and great physical fitness training,” Adi said. “It has made me a stronger and more strategic player, and it has done so through friendly competition in a fun environment, which is very important to me. The credit goes to the nice coaches who are very encouraging. They are great teachers.”
Adi also referenced sportsmanship and honesty as critical life skills he’s learned through tennis.
“Tennis players are sometimes responsible for calling the ball on their own side, and it’s a point of pride for me to call it correctly even if that means the call goes against me,” Adi wrote. “Win or lose, I do not like excessive displays of emotion and I respect my opponent’s feelings. I think practicing honesty and being respectful of others are perhaps the most important things learn from playing tennis.”
“The values that Adi talks about in his essay come from him. It’s in his nature to strive to be honest and good. At home, we try to provide a nurturing environment where those values are encouraged,” said his mother, Rina.
Adi, along with the nine other national winners, will be recognized at an awards luncheon on Sunday, August 27, co-hosted by USTA Foundation Chairman of the Board James Blake and former New York City Mayor and Honorary Board Member David N. Dinkins. The luncheon will be held at the Yale Club, where the essay contest winners will receive an honorary plaque.
He shared his excitement on the trip as a whole.
“I’m incredibly excited for the trip, especially because I will get to meet Mrs. Jeanne Ashe. I read a book about Mr. Arthur Ashe in fourth grade and really liked it,” Adi said. “He treasured being a good person, and I feel the same way. It’s more important to be honorable and honest than to win. If I get the opportunity, I want to ask Mrs. Ashe to tell me interesting stories about her husband so I can get to know more about him.”
Adi concluded his essay by saying, “I hope that I go on to being the greatest tennis player of my time, but if I do not, a lifetime of playing tennis will help me develop wonderful life skills.”
Adi was one of six New England contest winner who competed for the national prize. The other five New England winners are listed below:
Boys’ 12 and Under: Wens Bien-Aime (Norwalk Grassroots Tennis)
Boys’ 14 and Under: Tushar Aggarwal (Sportsmen’s)
Girls’ 10 and Under: Noelia Ames (Sportsmen’s)
Girls’ 12 and Under: Ricio Mata (Sportsmen’s)
Girls’ 14 and Under: Yasmine Queen (Sportsmen’s)