Why You Need a Weekend Getaway with your Tennis Team

One of the best parts of playing USTA League tennis in the Mid-Atlantic is the friends that you make. These are people that rally for you and cheer you on both on the court and throughout the ups and downs that life throws your way. For many, their tennis team is like family with a bond that has been built from grinding it out during tough tennis matches and from the memorable times spent off the court. Those are the special times together thanks to your love of tennis such as traveling to tournaments, championships or even National events. 

But not every team gets the chance to travel to a Regional or Section championship. That’s why USTA Mid-Atlantic partnered with the Roanoke Valley Tennis Association to create Second Serve to give more teams, especially women’s teams,  the chance to hit the road for fun on court competition against teams from all over the Mid-Atlantic and off court laughs. 

We chatted with Yoshie Nahmens, a current 4.0 who has been playing USTA Leagues for more than ten years, to get her take on the fun of traveling with your tennis team. Yoshie is an active captain in Fairfax, Virginia having captained more than ten teams in the last three years and plays on a variety of others leagues in Northern Virginia.

Girls Getaway - Yoshie Photo 1_350x250What has been your favorite girls’ weekend tennis memory?

This is a tough one since I have had several fun memories that picking just one is a challenge. I would probably say my 3.0/3.5/4.0 team’s win at the 2017 Tri-Level League Sectionals since we were not able to compete to defend our title last year. We were #1 in the local league but lost in the first round of local league playoffs. All matches were very tight and nail biters, so this win was extra sweet and special.

We’ve created so many great friendships off the court through our teams over the years that we’ve created our own weekend getaways. Eleven of us participated in a Wintergreen tennis camp a few years ago. We rented a huge house, cooked all our meals together (it was a cold, rainy & foggy April weekend, so we couldn’t go anywhere), danced, talked and crashed. It was my first ‘tennis camp’ and I loved it. I hope a group of us can go to another tennis camp in the near future. It was so much fun!

How has travelling for tennis been a bonding experience for the ladies on your teams?

We drive 3 hours+ to get to most Region and Section Championships so we usually carpool. Our team also shares hotel room to split the cost and spend more time together.  During travel and stay, we talk about family, kids, vacation, etc. So much quality bonding time – it has been great.

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I normally set up our team dinner on one of the nights when we travel to Regionals and/or Sectionals. Many of our team knows each other pretty well, but it is always fun to get together over great food and great wine (typically) and enjoy lots of laughs. Girls can be girls. It’s the most relaxed moment before the battle on the court.

Team-bonding, beautiful hikes, tasty breweries, late-night laughs, sing-along car rides and heck, maybe even that perfect, “down-the-T” serve will show up on your weekend in the Roanoke Valley at Second Serve, so gather up your tennis girls and let us know you are interested in playing in the inaugural event!  


USTA Mid-Atlantic and the Roanoke Valley Tennis Association are introducing Second Serve, a highly social team competition that has the look of a league championship with teams from all over the Mid-Atlantic competing, but in a fun, low-pressure environment. Second Serve will take place in Roanoke, Va. Teams from the Adult 18 & Over women’s leagues at 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 NTRP levels are eligible to participate in Second Serve. Play will count toward your NTRP rating, but there is no advancement.  Click here to learn more about the event! 

Wimbledon Today, Zonals Tomorrow; Othmane Garma Does It All

We got the chance to chat with Sloane Stephens’ traveling tour coach and USTA Mid-Atlantic’s Othmane Garma, also known as “OG.” Since Garma joined her team 13 months ago, she’s had her most significant results ever. The 25-year-old won her first-ever Grand Slam at the 2017 US Open and, was runner-up at the French Open. While that is impressive, what’s really stand-out is that Garma doesn’t just coach pros. His passion for the game spills into youth tennis as well.

Othmane Garma remembers idolizing professional players and coaches as a 10-year-old kid. Coming to the United States from Morocco at 14 years old, he had two goals in mind: learn English well enough to make friends and earn a full scholarship to a Division I school for tennis. Luckily, J.E.B. Stuart’s high school tennis coach James Holocombe took Garma under his wing, and made both a reality.

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Coach Othmane Garma is making an impact through tennis both with pro players and Mid-Atlantic Juniors alike

“I’ve been very fortunate to have the right voices around me and good people around me that want to see me develop as not only a tennis player but a human being,” said Garma, who grew up in Falls Church, Virginia. “Holocombe helped me learn English and do homework, drove me to tennis lessons, and he saw my passion for tennis.”

Garma had offers from George Mason, Howard, South Florida, and UNC Wilmington but knew he wanted to stay close to the D.C. area that gave him so much. He chose Howard, hoping to play on the ATP tour afterward. But after six months, he realized he didn’t have the financial resources to play professionally, so he turned to coaching.

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Coach Murray Kamau, Sloane Stephens and Coach Othmane Garma

He worked with as many as 40 players a week and generated approximately $110,000 for the Arlington YMCA Tennis Center. He moved on to coaching top juniors and was so successful, he advanced to working with professionals.

One of them was Treat Huey, a University of Virginia graduate who would eventually partner with Max Mirnyi.

“Traveling on the ATP world tour with Othmane helped me have the best season of my career, reaching the Wimbledon semifinals and qualifying for the ATP world tour finals,” Huey said. “His positive attitude was instrumental in the improvement I’ve had in my game.”

Huey and Mirnyi were a top 20 team under Garma, but that didn’t prepare him for the heights he’s attained coaching Sloane Stephens, ranked No. 4 in the world.

“I never pictured in my entire life that I would be holding a U.S. Open trophy as a coach,” said Garma, who works alongside Murray Kamau on Stephens’ team. “Everybody did their role. I was super grateful to be able to see her reach the success she deserves and for me and Coach Kamau, it was a proud moment.”

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Garma and Stephens after victory at the U.S. Open

When Stephens won the U.S. Open last September, she was ranked 83rd, the lowest ranked woman to ever win the title and the first American since 2002.

“Coach Othmane has been a great addition to our team, and his positive approach to everything he does makes him an incredible asset,” Stephens said.

 

 

While Garma continues to thrive as a coach, he’s sticking true to his roots by staying involved in the Mid-Atlantic. At the end of July, Garma will put his pro coaching career on pause and travel to Cary, North Carolina to coach the Mid-Atlantic team at the USTA Southern Zonals. He’ll be working with elite boys and girls, in a format that allows Garma to coach on court during the matches — something he’s looking forward to.

“I’m super excited and really looking forward to connecting with the kids and being able to give back,” Garma said. “I want to inspire them and teach them through experience.”

Talking to Garma, you’ll often hear him use the word “inspire,” along with “motivate” and “create.” In his eyes, those three words strung together are what life is about. Those words are why he’ll be traveling to coach 14-year-olds in the same month that he’s coaching Stephens at Wimbledon.

“I don’t look at it as I’m coaching an amateur or a professional; it’s about delivering the same message in 100 ways depending on the person,” Garma said. “I’m coaching an athlete to be the best they can be and it’s still around tennis.”

While Garma continues to influence the Mid-Atlantic and the WTA tour, life just gave him another opportunity to have an even bigger impact. On June 13th, his wife, Gabriela Falcon, gave birth to their first child, Skyla Jolie Garma.

“I am so excited to introduce baby Skyla to the sport that has done so much for me as soon as she hits the age of 3,” said Garma. “It’ll be her decision to choose what sport she loves and I’ll support her with all the resources I have and more.”


Harry Holtzclaw is an intern with USTA Mid-Atlantic. Harry is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Sports and Recreation Management from James Madison University.

 

 

TGA: A Game Changer for Mid-Atlantic Kids

When you first walk in to the school gym it hits you – the sounds of laughter, fun, and excitement with a distinct buzz of energy. You hear kids happily shouting to a friend, “ok, your turn to hit it to me now!”  As you scan the room, you see faces with smiles that are contagious, and others deep in skillful concentration. There is action everywhere controlled by the coaches in the room that are in the middle of it all, encouraging and guiding the students through their activities.

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This is what you see at a typical TGA Premier Youth Tennis after school program in the Mid-Atlantic.  What you may not see right away though is how this program is changing and benefiting lives – not just through physical activity that all kids need, but through the life lessons the kids are learning and enrichment they are getting through STEM activities too. Review the stats on the impact the program is having, and one can understand why this is a game changer for kids and the sport of tennis in the Mid-Atlantic.

USTA Mid-Atlantic has been offering TGA Premier Youth tennis after school and out-of-school time programs since 2016. In 2017, nearly 4,000 kids in communities across Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia were given the chance to learn tennis and develop personal qualities such as respect, honesty, decision-making and sportsmanship. These kids come from all types of communities – notably, 37 percent of the schools where programs are established service under resourced communities where at least 50 percent of the student population is enrolled in the National Free or Reduced Meal Program.

For some, especially those in under resourced communities, having this type of enrichment program accessible to them is a rarity. This is why USTA Mid-Atlantic is so committed to bringing the program to all types of communities to ensure that kids have a chance to learn tennis, build friendships, develop life skills and play.

We want to reach even more kids and offer these programs at little to no cost to every school in the Mid-Atlantic, but we need your help.

With our spring programs wrapped up and summer programs in action, we are making strong progress to introduce kids to tennis and break down the barriers that get in the way. We need you to help us keep the momentum going and ensure the impact and positive change doesn’t stop.

Here are just some highlights of what we’ve done so far in 2018 in a few of our program areas.

West Virginia

Our TGA after school tennis programs in West Virginia service some of the most under resourced communities, with programs taking place in schools where 100 percent of the student body qualifies for the National Free or Reduced Meal Program. We hit a record of having more than 300 children participating in one season and this spring, 15 scholarships were distributed. Be a game changer and help ensure more kids can get active and play.

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Prince William County, Va.

Prince William is one of our newest areas to offer tennis enrichment programs and one of the most economically diverse as well. The program achieved 300 percent growth for participation compared to the fall 2017 season and awarded more than $800 in scholarships so kids can play. Be a game changer and help us make tennis the most accessible sport in the Mid-Atlantic.

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Loudoun County, Va.

One of our original program areas, students participating in after school and out-of-school time programs are seeing their dedication pay off. Our TGA programs allow players to progress through a five-level color coded path at their own pace. They start at yellow and work toward black level which indicates a strong level of awareness and understanding of the game as well as demonstrated leadership among peers. This spring, two kids participated at the black level which is a first for the Mid-Atlantic. Be a game changer and help us put more kids on the path to success.

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Richmond, Va.

In Richmond, TGA programs were offered at Bensley Elementary which the most economically disadvantaged school in Chesterfield County, servicing a school population with 86 percent qualifying for the National Free or Reduced Meals Program. At this school we were able to award 16 partial scholarships to participants. Be a game changer and help us ensure all kids no matter their background, location, resources, access or ability precludes them from learning the sport of tennis.

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This is just a start; think of what could happen if you help us do even more

Will you help us make it possible for one more child to experience playing tennis? With every gift, USTA Mid-Atlantic moves one step closer to our vision of bringing tennis to all young people and communities in the Mid-Atlantic and breaking down barriers to entry and play.  Make a tax-deductible gift today to support a new player in the game, one who can champion the sport for others for a lifetime.

If you want to learn more about how USTA Mid-Atlantic is making an impact as a charitable 501(c)3 non-profit, visit www.usta.com/midatlanticimpact and continue to visit our blog for inspiring stories of our tennis community.

Advantage Anderson

This Father’s Day we bring you the story of tennis coach, dad and tennis mentor Tom Anderson, from Chesapeake Va. Tom recently shared with us his insights on being a tennis coach and a tennis dad and what really matters on the court. Anderson’s philosophy epitomizes what we at USTA Mid-Atlantic believe – that tennis can help kids develop invaluable personal qualities that deliver lifelong benefits. 

The typical tennis dad: hanging on every close call, cringing at a missed backhand, and feeling a sense of accomplishment after a tournament victory that he had little to do with are all sights you could catch a hold of at a court near you. The highs, the lows, the tennis dad feels them all.

Then there’s Tom Anderson. His 11-year old son, Cort, — he’s really Thomas IV but everybody calls him Cort — is among the top juniors in the USTA’s Mid-Atlantic Section. Nobody roots harder for the pint-sized rising sixth-grader than Dad, and yet. . .

“I’m a weirdo,” Anderson admitted. “I almost want him to face adversity and see bad things because I know it’ll help him learn and develop down the road.”

You see for Anderson, USTA Mid-Atlantic Community Outreach Award winner in 2014 from Chesapeake, Virginia, tennis is a metaphor for life. Every struck ball reflects a decision. You and only you are accountable. No coaching allowed.

“The adversity that a tennis match brings is unique from other sports,” he said. One break can cost a set. A net cord can be demoralizing. Disagreeing with an opponent’s out call can tilt a match.

“I used to be whether it is win or lose, but now I am much more concerned with how my kids play and how they handle the adversity,” he said. “Parents watching their kids play tennis seem to get so upset over a bad call. If they really want their kids to develop in the long run, they have to deal with those tough situations themselves so they’re better prepared down the road; either as a tennis player or a professional.”

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Coach Anderson with junior players at the 2017 Stars of Tomorrow at the Citi Open tournament

Anderson pushes life lessons on and off the court.

“The main thing he has taught me is how to be a gentleman and to always keep fighting,” said Cort.

Anderson’s always done that, dating back to his own days playing tennis at Western Branch High School where he was a doubles champion and part of a team that advanced to the state semifinals.

The senior director for investments for a Virginia Beach firm is all business when it comes to stocks and trades until the market closes at 4 p.m. Then he sheds the suit and tie for shorts and his customized Coach Anderson tennis hat he wears at Western Branch High School, where he runs one of the most successful public school tennis programs in the state. While he likes his Bruins to win, he’s more concerned with his players’ demeanor on court.

“We had just lost 5-1 to First Colonial to end our season but Coach saw it differently,” said Ben Holtzclaw, the team’s senior captain who played No. 1 singles and doubles for the last three years for the Bruins. “He told us it was the proudest he had been all year due to the late comebacks in sets. We left it all on the court and he saw that.”

Cort is a regular at Western Branch practice, too, along with his siblings Alice, 9, Smith, 8,  and Ruthie, 6; oldest daughter, Kate, 18, is the only Anderson who shies away from the racquet (The Andersons were named the USTA Mid-Atlanic’s Family of the Year in 2014). One day the boys will play for their dad, but until then, they’ve soaked up being among the giants.

“Being around all the high school guys and the team really got me hooked. Everyone was really nice to me and I just wanted to keep coming and my love for the game just kept growing and growing,” said Cort, who will spend the next month at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Florida.

As good as Western Branch, Cort and the Anderson crew are at forehands and backhands, Anderson harps more on how the lessons of tennis translate to everyday life.

“Ten years of coaching now and I would put the GPA, colleges attended, and success after college way above the norm for the school population in general,” Anderson said. “I’m not necessarily focused on the next match as much as I am looking out a few years down the road.”

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Coach Anderson’s students often participate in the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s 10U BLAST Tour

He’s excited about a junior development program he’s just started that he hopes will introduce youth to the game. He’s running a tournament in Chesapeake that he hopes will grow into one of the largest in the state.

“I believe that kids who learn tennis in their youth have an increased probability to be successful in life. If I am able to get more kids in our community to play tennis – that is a great accomplishment, right there. Starting with my own family, I see my children beginning to love the game and I know the benefits that will come from that, all good things” 


Harry Holtzclaw is an intern with USTA Mid-Atlantic. Holtzclaw played at court one for Coach Anderson and the Western Branch Bruins from 2013-15. Harry is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Sports and Recreation Management from James Madison University.

This is Mid-Atlantic Tennis: Mehrban Iranshad

This post is part of a series that tell the stories of how tennis has influenced people’s lives in the Mid-Atlantic Section. Meet Mehrban Iranshad from Bethesda, Md. Mehrban grew up as a competitive junior player and has found new ways to satisfy his passion for tennis as an adult. To share your story or send to someone you know, click here.

Where do you live? Where are you from?

I live in Bethesda, Maryland.  I have lived in the great state of Maryland all my life (Laurel, Silver Spring)!  Ironically, I am allergic to crabs.

How did you get started playing tennis?

My dad brought me to the tennis courts at Savage Park frequently as a little kid.  I tried other sports like basketball, soccer, and baseball, but I enjoyed tennis the most.

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Photo: Tennisfiles.com

What did you like about tennis as a junior? Is it different as an adult?

As a junior, I really enjoyed the competitive aspect of tennis, striving to win tournaments, and improving my rankings.  As an adult, I am more focused on improving my game and helping others become better players as well.

What drew you back to tennis as an adult?

After playing college tennis at UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) and making the NCAA DI team tournament my senior year, I took a break during law school.   Then my best friend Victor Ng told me about a Howard County USTA league team he was playing on, captained by one of the best captains of all time, Steve McCoy. I had so much fun playing in the league with such a great group of people, and it rekindled my love for tennis.

How are you currently involved in tennis?

I am heavily involved in tennis.  I host a tennis podcast (The Tennis Files Podcast), maintain a tennis blog (tennisfiles.com) to help players improve their game, host online tennis conferences (Tennis Summit), and I am the Vice President of the Montgomery County Tennis Association.  I am also an attorney at the Food and Drug Administration, so I don’t get bored too often!

What’s your favorite tennis memory?

My favorite tennis memory is placing third at the 2015 Tri-Level National Championships in Indian Wells.  Victor and I won both our doubles matches two years after a soul-crushing loss in a third-set tiebreaker in the same tournament.  It was an amazing experience to play on the same courts that the pros do, and then have the privilege to watch them compete after our own matches.  We had a fantastic team, and playing a Nationals tournament at the same time and place as one of the best and biggest professional tournaments of the year cannot be beat!

How has your relationship with tennis changed over the years? How has it impacted your life?

Tennis has evolved for me from a competitive outlet and confidence builder as a junior to a game that has helped me build some of the strongest and most important relationships in my life.  Many of my closest friends play tennis, and I owe several of my life and career advancements to my involvement in this wonderful sport.  I have improved my life drastically by implementing the lessons I have learned on the court to my life off the court.  I have met incredible friends, had long conversations with top coaches and grand slam champions, and connected with many kind people all because I was fortunate enough that my mom and dad put a racquet in my hand and continued to invest in my pursuit of the game throughout my life.  Tennis has had an extremely positive impact in my life, and I feel very lucky to be involved in the game.