I'll confess upfront that this isn't totally my idea. I stole it from the PGA Tour, but it's something that I think has a chance of working.
The PGA Tour has a program called the First Tee, designed to get children interested in golf. Free clubs. Free Lessons. Life Lessons.
There are a few problems with the First Tee program, though. Clubs cost money. You need space for golf courses. You need a big rule book. And the big role model for central-city children is the newly divorced king of all philanderers.
I'd like to see a program start in Milwaukee with tennis. Call it "Second Serve."
The idea would be to get a tennis racket into the hands of every kid in the city who doesn't have enough going on in his or her life.
I'm a firm believer in the power of sports to do wonderful things, including change lives. And that's what this idea is about. There are thousands of children in this city who face the daily challenges that go along with being poor. Outlets for healthy activities are limited and there is often very little support or interest expressed in these kids.
I think if we could get a tennis racket and some balls into the hands of many of these children, it would give them something realistic to hang onto and something healthy and competitive to engage in. Lord knows we've got to do something and I think there is a role for sports to play.
I like tennis for this for a number of reasons. You don't need much to play it: just a racket, some balls, a net and a little space. There are hardly any rules in tennis: the ball is in or out. It's up to the players to make the calls themselves, so it encourages honesty. And it's hard to beat the feeling of smashing a cross-court backhand for a winning point.
I know there are going to be lots of naysayers out there who say this will never work, it will be too expensive and who's going to organize it.
All legitimate questions, but there is an answer.
This is going to take one man or woman with drive, connections, dedication and passion. This is a place where we really need leadership.
Milwaukee is a city that is crying out for the next generation of leaders. We need someone to spearhead a new basketball arena. We need somebody who will try to bring meaningful reform to our school system -- remember I said meaningful reform. And we could use a leader to help launch Second Serve.
This is the right time to get going, too. School is starting so there is a whole school year to get what you need, get organized and throw up the first serve come summertime.
Take a drive around Milwaukee. You will see hundreds of empty tennis courts. Then drive through the central city and you'll see thousands of idle young people; kids with nothing going on except too much time on their hands.
It seems to me like a match just waiting for a push to turn into a reality. Nobody would ever pretend it would be easy. But things worth working for are rarely easy.
There are going to be people who rip this idea for a lot of reasons. But this city needs some good things to happen, especially for young kids. We are in danger of losing a generation of young people unless we find a way to engage them in life beyond their neighborhood. The idea of Second Serve is a program that might just be able to pull that off.
Anyone who wants to take charge, give me a call. I'd be glad to help.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.