'Match Point' Program Allows Gauchos to Give Back to Their Community

Feb. 25, 2011

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara women's tennis team continues excel on and off the court.

The Gauchos, who are currently ranked 57th in the nation, are 5-1 on the court. Off the court, they continue to give back to their community.

The Gaucho players participate in the "Match Point" program that is designed for at-risk sixth grade students who attend Santa Barbara's Franklin Elementary School. The program is an on-going mentoring program with several facets.

On Oct. 15, UCSB players talked to the Franklin School kids on goal-setting and what it takes to go to college. On Nov. 15, the subject was thankfulness: what it is to be thankful as well as who and what the students are thankful for. On Jan. 31, the players mentored the kids on overcoming adversity and techniques on how to turn negatives into positives.

Each Match Point session includes head coach Pete Kirkwood and members of the Gaucho team talking to the entire group of 40-50 students. After the larger group discussion, several smaller "breakout" groups are formed with a different UCSB player leading a more intimate discussion.

"This is a very rewarding program for all involved," said Coach Kirkwood. "The kids get a great deal out of it, but the coaching staff and players are rewarded just as much."

The program is held at the Municipal Tennis Courts and, in addition to the various other subjects, the students are taught about tennis, both as a reward and as a way to incorporate discipline into their everyday lives.

Finally, as part of the program, the Franklin School kids will take a pair of field trips to UCSB. The first field trip will be to watch the Gauchos play a dual match and the second, which will be held after the season, will include a tour of campus with players relating their college experiences.