BRONX, N.Y. – Families from all over the northeast are traveling to the Bronx to participate in the Little Mo tennis tournament at the Carey Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning and the children are having a good time.
“It’s just really fun, meeting new people, making more friends,” 9-year-old Kellan Stratton said.
Eight- to 12-year-olds are playing against other young athletes the same age. At most tournaments, Brenda Brinker Bottum, vice president of the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation, says children aren’t always competing against others their exact age.
“They can play great tennis, but they don’t have to be so stressed about it,” Brinker Bottum said. “We really try to make it fun and that’s what it should be for this age group.”
Brinker Bottum is the daughter of Maureen Connolly Brinker – also known as “Little Mo” – the first woman to win a Grand Slam of tennis.
“Mom was such a firm believer in junior tennis that she wanted to start a program that was for juniors,” Brinker-Bottum said.
To help with that goal, Connolly Brinker started a namesake organization called the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation.
After she passed away, the Little Mo tournament was created to inspire children all over the world, such as 12-year-old Charlotte Au.
“I’m hoping to finally follow my path in tennis and hopefully build my tennis journey as I go along,” Au said. “Even if I win or lose, I hope I can learn something for it, so I can play in my other matches.”
Now in its 24th year, the tournament teaches kids to stay focused, build camaraderie and confidence.
“I like paying points, trying to win, hitting the ball,” Strattion said. “It feels nice to get a good shot.”
The top three to four athletes in each region will then move forward to nationals in Austin, Texas. Athletes have until Tuesday to compete.