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Friday, June 29, 2012
Back to school, this time as the teacher

By Sandra Harwitt

Wimbledon
The world's No. 1 junior girls player, American Taylor Townsend, in white bow, was among those at the Wimbledon Educational Junior Players Forum.

Every year on the first Thursday evening of Wimbledon, I head to the University of Surrey-Roehampton campus.

I make the 20-minute journey from the All England Club to speak to the upcoming stars of the game -- the junior players -- about the role of the media in tennis.

The event is put on by the International Tennis Federation and is known as the Wimbledon Educational Junior Players Forum.

The kids pile in to the event, which starts off with pizza, salad, fruit cocktail and drinks, and ends with a gift -- this year, a white sweatshirt.

In between, the juniors hear about some of the important information they will need to know as they head toward the pro game. The juniors who pay attention are learning things that will come in handy.

There's an important anti-doping PowerPoint presentation that details how you go about knowing which substances are banned and explains what happens during drug testing.

Ashley Singer from the WTA Tour told the crowd that a no-grunting rule is in the works -- the actual rule has not been worked out -- but she suggested any of the grunting girls in the crowd start to "shush now." She also bought along a funny short video that keyed in on all the grunters.

As for my role, I start by introducing myself and telling the juniors that a colleague of mine has sent a special message regarding the media via a video. I tell them I'm not going to make an introduction for this colleague, as I'm sure everyone will know him, but if there's confusion afterward, I'll help them out.

Run the video: It's Roger Federer, and the juniors start to giggle and listen to Roger telling them that the media are an important part of tour life. I go on to do a 10-to-15 minute presentation explaining that the media are the historical chroniclers of the sport, and that while I ask the questions, they write the articles with their answers.

All in all, it's good fun and I get a glimpse of the potential stars of the future. My only misgiving last night was that while the U.S. girls' coach, Kathy Rinaldi, showed with a couple of her charges, including world No. 1 junior Taylor Townsend, I didn't notice any of the American junior boys in attendance.