“The XS Tennis and Education Foundation (XSTEF) mission is to provide Chicago’s underserved youth with an enriching safe-haven and positive pathway to college through a community-based tennis and academic enrichment program.”
We strive to introduce as many underserved Chicago youth as possible to tennis, with the intention of guiding them down a pathway to college through the attainment of a college tennis scholarship and sustained excellence thereafter in whatever endeavor they pursue.
XSTEF emerged from XS Tennis, a program that started in 2005 on Chicago’s South Side with a small cohort of tennis players. These players proudly learned to play in Dunbar Park in the summer, and the unheated National Guard Armory on 51st and Cottage Grove during the winter. Their grit, pride, charisma, and success sparked interest from other children around Chicago from different socio economic backgrounds. With the thought that no child should be left behind, XS Tennis formed XSTEF, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, in order to reach and support a greater number of Chicago’s urban youth.
XSTEF has since sent 47 youth to Division 1 schools with tennis scholarships. XSTEF now serves thousands of players supported by more than fifteen tennis professionals, high school counselors, and volunteers.
Through its in-school program, XSTEF brings tennis into CPS elementary schools in at-risk communities, introducing a pathway that continues through the XSTEF after-school and summer camp programs. XSTEF also offers tennis instruction based on a sliding-scale income, to advance its efforts to introduce tennis to those who otherwise would not discover the sport. XSTEF now impacts the lives of nearly 3,000 students annually.
We use tennis as a mechanism to engage underserved youth and instill core values and experiences that will stay with them for life
XSTEF is physically located on the former site of the Robert Taylor homes, which was the largest housing project in the United States. It is strategically located in the Washington Park community, close to the intersection of State St and 55th St, which places it geographically on the south-side, and provides a unique opportunity for XSTEF to be central to serving underserved youth. XSTEF is located just over 1 mile away from the University of Chicago and 3 miles from Jackson Park, the site of the future Obama library, and 5 miles from the South Loop. XSTEF is conveniently located near the Green Line (Garfield), Red Line (Garfield), and is walking distance from bus stops for the #55 (Garfield) and #29 (State St) buses, making it one bus ride and one train ride away from the entire city.
Since 2008, XSTEF has sent 47 students to college on tennis scholarships, with many more in our current pipeline of youth. The combined value of the scholarships our students have received is $9M. This was achieved without a permanent home for our students and with a highly limited operating budget.
Many of our students return to XSTEF to volunteer, sharing their experiences with younger students aspiring to emulate their success. In addition, a number of XSTEF students have returned to XSTEF as coaches and are now taking a leadership role in developing the next generation of XSTEF juniors.
In 2018, XSTEF moved into its first permanent home at 5336 S State St, a $16M facility, the third largest indoor and outdoor facility in the United States, and the first tennis facility of its kind on the south side of Chicago. The XSTEF facility has 12 consecutive indoor courts, the longest stretch of courts in the world, along with 15 outdoor courts, including 4 clay courts. The facility is equipped with a 10,000 sq ft fitness center, designed to optimize the sports performance of our youth, while also possessing three academic classrooms to enable our youth to thrive academically in addition to their on-court success.
With this permanent residence and increased capacity, we strive to deliver the highest quality programming to youth in our local community, while bringing together adults and children from all Chicago neighborhoods under one roof. The facility allows us to control our own destiny and build out our programming knowing our future is secure.
Founder, and CEO
First started playing tennis: 7 years old
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Education: Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Florida A&M University (BA & MBA)
Years at XS: 14
Things to know: I started playing tennis in the parks in Chicago. I received a tennis scholarship to Florida A&M University where I also served as a Graduate Assistant Coach. I worked in corporate America for 10 years while leading XS. I have taught students of all ages. I am only the 3rd African American to coach a pro to a Grand Slam Title. I am a WTA Gold Coach and Runner up for 2018 WTA Coach of the year.
Come see me about: The impetus behind XS, our mission, our vision, short and long term goals, the thinking behind what we do, and how we do it. How global trends in tennis affect us locally.
First started playing tennis: 6 years old
Hometown: London, England
Education: Bancroft’s School, Indiana University – Bloomington (BS), University of Chicago (MBA)
Years at XS: Joined at the beginning of this year
Things to know: I played junior tennis competitively in the UK, line judged at Wimbledon (2003-2006), very superstitious when on a tennis court, management consultant lifer before XS, moved from San Francisco to work for XS
Come see me about: how we are executing on the mission, operational efficiencies, You can also reach out to me anytime about your perspectives, concerns, questions, etc.
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Education: Austin High School, Western Illinois University
Years at XS: 4 years
Things to know: Working with youth is my passion.
Come see me about: memberships, court bookings, tennis programming, educational programming, scholarships XS offers, events, our mission
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Education: Kenwood Academy, Illinois State University
Years at XS: 10
Things to know: I have a daughter, I love football and basketball (and I’m learning to love tennis)
Come see me about: scheduling, invoices, memberships, and class sign-ups
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Education: Whitney Young High School, Marquette University (c/o 2016)
Years at XS: 1
Things to know: I’m a huge NHL hockey fan, though I don’t know how to ice skate!
Come see me about: scheduling, class registration and membership
OUR SUPPORTERS & PARTNERS
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