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Michelle Obama: Despite lack of tennis courts on Chicago's South Side, she came to love the game

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WASHINGTON--First lady Michelle Obama exercises a lot to stay in shape, but her main sport is tennis, a game she is passing on to daughters Sasha and Malia. During a visit to New York on Friday to promote her "Let's Move" anti-obesity program at the U.S. Open, Mrs. Obama talked about how she came to love the game, even though there were not a lot of tennis courts in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood where she was raised.

Said Mrs. Obama, "Now, I'm probably like the average kid. I didn't -- I grew up in the city, on the south side. And there were not a lot of tennis courts around. So I really didn't get exposure to the sport until after law school, when I just sort of picked it up and started playing with some friends. And it's the kind of sport that you just develop a passion for. And I'm not really good or anything like that -- that's the beauty of tennis. You don't have to be good to enjoy it, because I love the game and my skills are very questionable.

"But that's one of the reasons why I introduced the sport to my kids early on, because it's the kind of thing that -- it's great for kids because it gets you moving. It keeps you focused. You've got to move your muscles. You've got to be quick. You've got to be strong. Gets those arm muscles going, gets your heart pumping. But it's a sport you can do forever. I mean, that's one of the beauties. I know people in their 90s that are still playing tennis, and I want to be one of those people. I want my daughters to be some of those people. And I want all kids around the country to have access to opportunities and to get some exposure to sports like tennis so that you guys figure out what your loves are."

below, White House transcript....

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release September 9, 2011

REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT USTA "LET'S MOVE" EVENT
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center - SmashZone
New York, New York

11:01 A.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Well, this is exciting. Are you guys excited?
CHILDREN: Yeah!

MRS. OBAMA: Are you pumped up?

CHILDREN: Yeah!

MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready to show me some moves?

CHILDREN: Yeah!

MRS. OBAMA: All right. So I'm not going to talk long, because we got to get some smashing done in the SmashZone, right? So if you're in the SmashZone, you have to smash, right? (Laughter.) So we will be doing some smashing.

But I want to thank several people, not just Jon Vegosen, who is the USTA president. You all have done an amazing job. This is an example of how the nation is answering the call for young people. We asked people to get involved, to step up, to find ways to engage more young people, to help you guys get active and healthy, to eat right, to appreciate exercise. And people like Jon, likes James, like Billie Jean, Katrina, John McEnroe -- they have answered the call with such enthusiasm. And that's one of the reasons why I'm here. I mean, I have been trying to get to the U.S. Open my entire life. This is the first time I've been here. We couldn't get here last year. So, yes, I'm excited to be here. I am so incredibly fired up to finally be at my first U.S. Open. (Applause.)

But I am equally excited and proud to be standing in partnership with the USTA and all that they've done for thousands -- hundreds of thousands of kids across this country. And you all are an example of what we can do when we put our minds to it.

So I am just extremely grateful to all that you've done. So let's give the USTA a big round of applause. (Applause.)

Now, I'm probably like the average kid. I didn't -- I grew up in the city, on the south side. And there were not a lot of tennis courts around. So I really didn't get exposure to the sport until after law school, when I just sort of picked it up and started playing with some friends. And it's the kind of sport that you just develop a passion for. And I'm not really good or anything like that -- that's the beauty of tennis. You don't have to be good to enjoy it, because I love the game and my skills are very questionable. (Laughter.)

But that's one of the reasons why I introduced the sport to my kids early on, because it's the kind of thing that -- it's great for kids because it gets you moving. It keeps you focused. You've got to move your muscles. You've got to be quick. You've got to be strong. Gets those arm muscles going, gets your heart pumping. But it's a sport you can do forever. I mean, that's one of the beauties. I know people in their 90s that are still playing tennis, and I want to be one of those people. I want my daughters to be some of those people. And I want all kids around the country to have access to opportunities and to get some exposure to sports like tennis so that you guys figure out what your loves are.

It may not be tennis, because there are so many other ways that you guys can stay fit. I mean, staying fit and being active means just jumping up and down. It can be dancing. It can be, you know, playing table tennis. It doesn't have to be tennis, because not everybody is going to love tennis, not everybody is going to have access to the sport.

But what we hope to do through efforts like this is to introduce young people to the vast array of opportunities that they have just to keep their bodies moving.

In addition, we want you guys eating right, too, and that's what the "Let's Move" campaign is all about. Have all of you guys heard about "Let's Move"? I see you have our t-shirts on, so I'm assuming you know a little bit of something about "Let's Move." We're doing this for you, because we want the next generation of kids to be healthy and happy and strong, because if you're not healthy it's tough for you to pursue any other dreams that you have.
So we're trying to get kids engaged in nutritious eating and keeping their bodies moving in all types of ways, and tennis is one of many ways you can do it.

So I am excited to see so many pumped-up little tennis players right here. And I am, again, grateful to the USTA. The courts that you've built, these kid-size courts, are just amazing. They will break that barrier. They'll make tennis accessible to kids like me who don't have access to the larger courts. And it also helps to make the sport approachable for kids, because I know that my kids didn't like it early on because it's a little intimidating to play with a hard ball on a big court. Your arm's not strong enough to hit it over, so then you're frustrated and you don't want to play anymore. But these courts give you the skills and introduce you to the sport at your level so that you can learn to love it and then graduate up to the bigger court. So I think this is just phenomenal.

So I'm so proud of the USTA. I'm proud of all of you. And I'm going to start -- stop talking so that we can start playing, right? Are we ready to move?
CHILDREN: Yeah!

MRS. OBAMA: All right, let's move! Let's move! (Applause.) You guys can really move. I know they told you to be still, but you can move.

END 11:06 A.M. EDT
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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on September 9, 2011 12:42 PM.

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