Tennis coach McLean inspires new DC tournament to raise mental health awareness

The main tennis stadium in Rock Creek Park during the Citi Open in August 2021 (Photo via USTA Mid-Atlantic Section, Inc.)

A series of junior tennis tournaments arrive in the nation’s capital this weekend, named after McLean tennis coach Matt Stevenson, who died aged 32 in 2017.

Launched in San Diego, Calif., In September, coinciding with National Suicide Awareness Month, the Matt Stevenson junior tennis tournament series takes place in Washington this Saturday and Sunday (October 2-3) at the Rock Creek Tennis Center. , which hosted professional players. for the Citi Open in August.

It is the first and only series of junior tennis tournament events to promote the importance of adolescent mental health, according to the Mid-Atlantic section of the nonprofit US Tennis Association.

“The inspiration behind the MSJTT series came from the late Matt Stevenson, a young tennis professional who has lived and successfully led junior tennis programs in McLean and the DC area,” said the USTA Mid-Atlantic. . Prior to his tragic suicide in 2017 at the age of 32, he wrote extensively about his own mental health issues and called for children to be made aware of the importance of staying mentally healthy and asking for help. ‘help if they needed it. “

The tournament began in 2019 in San Diego and expanded to DC and New York last month as part of a collaboration between the nonprofit ProtoStar Foundation and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

It seeks to “respond to the national crisis of depression, anxiety and suicide among adolescents by engaging adolescents in a sport they love and by promoting dialogue and understanding of these issues,” the statement said. September 8 press release.

Speaking to Tysons Reporter, Judith Stevenson recalled how her son came up with tennis games to entertain children and teach them the basics of the game.

One game, King of the Court, involved players trying to get the ball past the instructor. When they scored a point against him, they would run around and ride on him while he was doing push-ups.

“The fun they had was great,” she said. “He loved to teach sports.

Stevenson attended high school in Alexandria and college at Marymount University, coached young players and adults at the McLean Racquet and Health Club and was director of tennis at the Langley Club. He chose coaching as a profession.

Matthew Stevenson’s struggles with depression began in his early teens, with bouts of depression beginning in high school, his mother said.

Judith noted that it can be difficult for parents and coaches to figure out how to support a player who is struggling without becoming intrusive. However, she said it’s important to be prepared to listen and show respect by supporting a young person as they take charge of their own treatment.

She hopes events like the junior tennis tournament can help make mental issues akin to physical issues, such as sports injuries.

ProtoStar President and Founder Gary Poon noted that Stevenson has created tennis programs from the ground up and is highly regarded in the community.

The USTA Mid-Atlantic shared more details about the event, stating:

Raising awareness of adolescent mental health is crucial today as the crisis in youth mental health continues to grow in the United States, more recently exacerbated by the pandemic. The Mid-Atlantic section of the USTA emphasizes the importance of mental health well-being in young tennis players and has viewed October 2-3 as a mental health weekend featuring this tournament and only one other sanctioned tournament that players can participate in in the region, or they can choose to have a quiet weekend to rest, rejuvenate and focus on mental health. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Institute of Mental Health will make practical information available to parents and tournament players.

Matt Stevenson has also written nearly 2,000 articles for the Mad in America Foundation (MIA), a nonprofit organization that seeks to rethink and change the way the psychiatric community uses drugs, especially in the long term.

Judith Stevenson said her son had expressed concerns about the names of mental health disorders as well as the stigma associated with them, challenging the language describing various conditions that he considered derogatory.

After Stevenson’s death by suicide in 2017, the MIA Foundation published a tribute to his work interviewing experts and writing about mental health issues online, highlighting his efforts to read scientific literature on the disorder. borderline personality and books criticizing the validity of psychiatric disorders.

“The theme he most often raised was about the spurious nature of psychiatric diagnoses and the damage such labels could cause,” the organization said.

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