These Bellevue sisters are serving to little ones explore tennis and offering protected outside exercise during COVID-19

Ahead of the terms “quarantine” and “social distancing” grew to become portion of the daily global lexicon and re-assessing finances and exercise were being commonplace, Shriya Challam was devising a program inadvertently suited for the tumultuous yr of 2020.

When universities shuttered in Washington in March simply because of the distribute of COVID-19, Challam finalized her strategy, and extra extra security measures to safeguard from the virus. As numerous emerged from quarantining with new expertise in baking or dancing, Challam unveiled her venture: Time To Tennis (, a nonprofit foundation that introduces young ones to the sport by giving no cost devices, coaching and workshops. The expanding organization has presently raised $1,000 to date.

The Interlake Large College senior aimed to make tennis extra accessible for children — irrespective of their families’ money or track record. After authorities limits are lifted, Challam desires to build to web hosting month-to-month activities where by two courts are crammed with 20-30 elementary-aged youngsters and four coaches to train the essentials these types of as how to maintain a racket, serving and the value of stretching. 

Amid the pandemic, Challam’s debut was a five-day clinic in which 10 kids participated in wholly cost-free classes and were being gifted gear, if desired. She also made available non-public lessons past summer time for $15, all of the proceeds going to the foundation. Possessing by now expanded to chapters in Texas, Illinois and California where by the plans are duplicated, the totally youth-led Time To Tennis is an additional pandemic tale in how a straightforward plan can join so a lot of. 

“When people imagine about tennis, they do not automatically feel about it as something that is available and they really do not think about it as something that is for everybody,” Challam mentioned. “It has this record of remaining for a unique group of individuals with a specific history, with a specific sum of revenue. To split down that background of tennis is something that we’re aiming to do.

“It’s not to make these young ones tennis stars. The purpose is to make absolutely sure these kids are staying energetic and having enjoyable while also being secure. Due to the fact group services is always a thing I’ve definitely liked and been a element of. For me, tennis is a great interest to have.”

Low hazard, higher value

If Challam essential a signal that her basis could triumph, it beamed in a graphic released by the Texas Health care Affiliation in July. The graphic confirmed the danger of contracting COVID-19 by actively playing tennis was a 2 out of 10 (10 staying the greatest) in relation to other actions — the exact same hazard as pumping gas, getting takeout food stuff and going tenting. 

The United States Tennis Association (USTA), the countrywide governing physique for the sport, reported previous thirty day period an uptick of 3.4% of gamers in comparison with 2019.

It’s easy to location the curiosity in the Seattle space, where courts at Seward Park and Discovery Park are common. But if you are new to the activity, tools like a racket, footwear, balls and apparel, as well as courtroom expenses and lessons, can rapidly include up to $300 each year if you perform just when a month.

 “If you participate in with typical operating footwear, it can basically be detrimental to your toes,” Challam mentioned. “You have to be sporting appropriate shoes to be participating in. And if you reside in a different setting, you have unique varieties of courts — clay courts, hard courts — and footwear can price up to $100. That in and of by itself is super highly-priced, just to make positive you are not harming yourself and your feet for the extended term.”

For Challam, it was the $170 for each player her Interlake teammates desired to expend on uniforms in 2018 that made her end and assume about how financial constraints can keep men and women from the sport. 

Formulating Time To Tennis started with research in slide 2019 about the overall costs, how corporations aid and how Challam could get associated. Her sister, Sahithi, a freshman at Interlake, shared in the legwork and is a co-founder of the corporation.

Sahithi is much more aggressive than her older sister, a short while ago profitable a youth tournament, but just as passionate in sharing the activity.

From left: sisters Sahithi and Shriya Challam, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 in Bellevue. Interlake senior Shriya has started a nonprofit called Time to Tennis ( that aims to bring economic diversity to tennis.  (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
From remaining: sisters Sahithi and Shriya Challam, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 in Bellevue. Interlake senior Shriya has started a nonprofit called Time to Tennis ( that aims to carry financial range to tennis. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Situations)

Good friends to group

All Shriya’s father, Sreekanth, wanted was a way for his children to easily make pals — for the rest of their lives.

The IT specialist relocated from Bangalore, India, to Houston in 1998 for a position with a item-advancement corporation and began to see tennis as the remedy. But it would take eight several years to arrive to fruition. Very first, he returned residence to India to marry Shilpa, and later on to Houston, where Shriya and Sahithi were born.

Ball whacks, tender claps, Serena Williams’ grunts and squeaking sneakers are standard track record noises in the Challam residence.

Sreekanth has generally been an avid sports activities admirer whose most loved tennis gamers are Williams and Roger Federer. Whether or not participating in in Kazakhstan or Australia, the televisions are turned to whichever channel is enjoying the tennis matches no make a difference the time of working day. 

“I never participate in but I enjoy tennis for many motives,” Sreekanth explained. “You can make a neighborhood. As opposed to other athletics (in which) you get rid of it just after a handful of years, tennis is one particular point you can make lifelong. Some sporting activities you also need a team to participate in with and it is always the similar team and it’s challenging to bond. Tennis, even at 60 decades-aged, you can go to a new city and be part of a tennis club and make new buddies.”

When Shriya turned 6, the couple registered the sisters for tennis classes. The women quickly fell in enjoy with participating in and even taught their dad the intricacies of the sport.

The vision Sreekanth had also worked. Work prospects moved the relatives from Houston to Chicago and eventually Bellevue, Shriya and Sahithi utilizing tennis and Indian dance lessons to make buddies exterior of faculty together the way.

Shriya starting off a basis so no one is excluded financially was touching for her mom and dad.

“When she started in the beginning, I considered she was not genuinely major,” Sreekanth explained. “But loyalty is some thing she acquired from us (moms and dads). What we select to do, we never leave very easily. But youngsters, they consider of a great deal of points and are not generally equipped to pull via. They (Shriya and Sahithi) did, basically, and I never expected what they would do.”

Quarantine goals

Alright, so Shriya did not fully cultivate Time To Tennis whilst in quarantine very last spring.

There was what could now be called a pre-quarantine in December 2019 when she insulated in her household house for extended hrs all through winter season split, training herself how to code working with HTML and CSS to develop her foundation’s site. That provided graphic style and design — whilst it’s somewhat primarily based off a template — and composing her possess content with Sahithi.

“It’s super nerdy but which is my kind of wintertime split,” Shriya explained with a laugh. “Once you pick up a person coding language, understanding an additional is pretty quick.”

The tough portion, in accordance to Sahithi, was patience in finding as a result of the paperwork to become a registered nonprofit in the point out of Washington. For Shriya, it was achieving out for other people to be a part of.

“My goal in beginning the chapters is if I’m not effective here, it’s possible I can be thriving somewhere else,” Shriya claimed. “Like in Texas in which there is fantastic weather conditions all the time.”

Shriya shook off nerves to immediate-information people today by using Instagram who posted plenty of pictures about tennis. Which is how she related with Sarang Jayanth, who’s now a chapter director with two superior-university tennis teammates in San Ramon, California.

In all, Shriya oversees 30 volunteers when combining the 4 chapters and offered classes with her sister to 50 youngsters last summer time. They socially distanced by trying to keep young children from diverse homes on opposite sides of the courtroom and many coaches to do the job with little teams.

The spotlight was the inaugural celebration held mid-July. Youths from the bordering place wore deal with masks and some applied rackets that Shriya and Sahithi personally had restrung. The everyday classes begun with running close to the court docket and stretching. Drills incorporated discovering backhand and forehand strokes, footwork and serves. By the close of the 5 days, the kids understood tennis’ basic regulations and could rally. 

“It was Shriya’s passion that encouraged me to do this,” explained Jayanth, whose chapter has not held an in-man or woman function mainly because of COVID. “And I wished to give back to my neighborhood since everyone is going by means of difficult situations. It is a way to get kids to de-stress and play tennis just for fun.”

In involving digital schooling, Shriya and Sahithi movie-conference get in touch with with chapter prospects, solicit donations and speak to proven corporations about partnering efforts to advertise the match. Shriya stated her family garage is complete of rackets and balls, all sanitized and prepped for their following celebration, which hinges on govt restrictions. The USTA previously issued basic safety protocols that Shriya mentioned she follows.

Through the summer months, Shilpa experienced to remind her daughters to get some rest and take in for the reason that of the long hours they’re putting in to make the foundation work. Then there’s their typical university perform and time to engage in tennis.

“They are very sharp in what they’re seeking to do,” Shilpa claimed. “Maybe it’s COVID moments, but we’re surprised at the responses.”