Top Things we are Thankful For About Tennis

At  USTA Mid-Atlantic we often say tennis is so much more than a game played with a racquet and ball. We believe tennis is a culture, a community and a passion that builds character, enhances your life and makes you who you are.

With the Thanksgiving season here, we started thinking and talking about the sport we love and why we are so thankful to not only be working to grow the game and get more we-love-mid-atlantic-tennispeople playing but also simply why we. LOVE. Tennis. So. Much!

So we started a list of things about tennis we are so thankful for and appreciate. By reflecting on this appreciation we hope more people can understand why tennis is special and feel motivated to show their support during the charitable giving season to ensure all people in the Mid-Atlantic region, especially children, get to experience the benefits of a game that gives back in so many ways. Our list is by no means complete so we definitely want to hear from you on what you would add too. Here goes:

Tennis makes us thankful for…. 

What would you add to the list that we have not included? Leave a comment or tweet us (@USTAMidAtlantic) with your comment using #ThankfulforTennis.

 

This is Mid-Atlantic Tennis: Rebekah Noll

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 Rebekah Noll, a USPTA Tennis Professional, Net Generation verified coach and director of tennis at the Crosswhite Athletic Club in Lynchburg, Va. Rebekah was honored by the USPTA with the U30 Award. Read on and you’ll know why. 

In August, at the 2018 United States Professional Teaching Association’s (USPTA) Annual Awards, local Mid-Atlantic teaching professional Rebekah Noll received the U30 USPTA Award. Noll, Director of Tennis at the Crosswhite Athletic Club in Lynchburg, Va., traveled to New York to be awarded this prestigious honor for her accomplishments as a tennis teaching professional. TTC_2018_Noll_resize

Noll, became a director of tennis at the age of 23, and is part of the USPTA Under 30 Initiative. She has dedicated herself to building and maintaining the tennis community at the Crosswhite Athletic Club.

“I was speechless when Gary Trost, the president of USPTA, called to tell me I won this award,” Noll said. “I could not believe a small town coach in Central Virginia even had a chance up against big time tennis professionals in Texas, Florida and California.”

Noll, in addition to successfully creating a Club League program and the first ever (part-time) tennis academy in Lynchburg, has expanded the youth program to include the USTA youth progression pathway. Youth at Crosswhite can now participate in a USTA entry level tournament each month, run by Noll and her team, to earn youth progression points so that each player is able to “level up.” Noll and her fellow teaching professionals also have the Net Generation app on hand to plan their practices and do progress evaluations on each player to keep them engaged.

“Every coach needs to have a youth progression training funnel. Different sessions for different levels of player, so that they get quality practice, while also encouraging new players to work hard to get to that next level,” she said. Net Generation is a really great way to get your program information out there for potential clients looking for a certified coach.”

Noll grew up in Sarasota, Florida, competing alongside her sister, Jordan Jenkins, as they trained at various tennis academies in Florida and became nationally ranked juniors. Her weekends were filled with traveling to tennis tournaments in the family minivan like many youth participating in USTA tournaments. As a college student and member of the Liberty University women’s tennis team, Noll studied Psychology focusing on Human Development – a major that has proved helpful in her work with youth.

“Tennis is a tool that can help form a child’s perspective on the world – developing mental fortitude in a match or just pushing through hard drills,” Noll shared.

Her background in tennis has led her to an opportunity to help other families navigate the world of tennis, learning and growing along the way. Outside of Crosswhite Athletic Club, she hopes that her outreach program in the community, volunteering at public tennis courts, and giving free clinics will help inspire others to give back to the sport as well.

“I would highly recommend to any collegiate tennis player who is graduating to earn a coaching certification and enter the tennis industry – it’s a great career,” Noll added. The USPTA created the Under 30 initiative to create opportunities through leadership and education for fellow Under 30 teaching professional. Through this initiative, Under 30 teaching professionals can access funding to attend conferences, join USPTA committees and be an active resource for others worldwide.  Fellow USPTA pro and former USPTA Mid-Atlantic President, Patrick Kearns, added “the U30 tennis professionals are the future of the USPTA. Having Rebekah Noll win this National Award is great not only for our [Mid-Atlantic] division but for her personally.  Rebekah is a talented Professional and it’s wonderful to have her as one of our U30 leaders.”


Interview and article by Shell Wood, events manager for USTA Mid-Atlantic.

Unique Partnership Breaks Down Barriers to Tennis

Building confidence. Developing character. Acquiring the skills needed to become productive, responsible adults.

That’s what the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington (BGCGW) strives to do for the youth in their clubs.

These aspects are also what USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization, delivers to young people through the sport of tennis, while also giving kids a physical outlet and path to friendships and fun that can stay with them for a lifetime. USTA Mid-Atlantic depends on contributions and donations to succeed on the mission to not only grow tennis but to change lives and improve communities through the sport.

With synergies apparent, USTA Mid-Atlantic and BGCGW partnered together during the summer of 2018 to bring tennis to kids age 5 – 18 that did not have access to the sport. Nearly half of the population served by BGCGW lives at or below poverty level, and in populations such as these, most don’t have access to tennis. Thanks to the USTA Mid-Atlantic, more than 400 of these kids got the feel of the racquet, most for the very first time.

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USTA Mid-Atlantic delivered tennis to two BGCGW locations including the Culmore Club and the Martin K. Alloy Club of Manassas. For the Culmore club, participants came from Bailey’s Elementary, Glasgow Middle School and Glen Forest Elementary, in Fairfax County, Va. Counselors-in-training also joined, all of which were from Justice High School in Falls Church, Va. For the Martin K. Alloy Club at least 20 different schools were represented as part of Prince William County Public School District, Manassas City School District, or Manassas Park City School District.

Over the course of 10 weeks, USTA Mid-Atlantic delivered tennis summer camp programming, which introduces tennis through fun and enriching experiences, incorporates STEM concepts and builds life skills such as respect, honesty, decision-making and sportsmanship through the game.20180817_105322-1242007325-1540390083859.jpg

USTA Mid-Atlantic provided verified and trained coaches to run the tennis programming along with the racquets, balls, curriculum and fun. The children didn’t just learn how to hit forehands and backhands. They learned about the benefits that come with playing tennis, such as:

  • Tennis is great exercise. It uses every muscle in the body and is a sport that they can play for their entire life;
  • Anyone can play tennis no matter their ability, and families can play together;
  • Sportsmanship, honesty and friendship are the all at the forefront of playing tennis.

Thanks to grant funding secured by USTA Mid-Atlantic, the tennis program was provided to the participants of the BGCGW at no cost.

“Because of the USTA Mid-Atlantic program over the summer, our kids were able to get exposed to a sport that they would not normally get the opportunity to participate in,” said Yolanda Gales, program director for Culmore Boys & Girls Club. “While it was hot and at times the weather seemed to not be as dry as they would have liked, they all enjoyed going out and being allowed to hit balls with each other while learning different techniques.”20180817_105251-2643274327-1540389946660.jpg

For USTA Mid-Atlantic, it is the highest priority to have all children in the Mid-Atlantic play tennis and experience the life-long benefits that come from the game – no matter their background, zip code, resources or ability.

“Our vision is that every child in the Mid-Atlantic plays tennis because we see first-hand how the sport transforms lives and helps kids gain qualities that will serve them on and off the tennis court,” said Tara Fitzpatrick-Navarro, chief executive officer of USTA Mid-Atlantic. “We were excited to partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington because together we were able to break down barriers and help kids find new qualities in themselves that they may not ever have imagined were there by sampling a new sport.”

Gales said some kids enjoyed learning the ins and outs of a new sport as well as being exposed to something different.

“Getting the kids involved in something out of their norm is what the Boys & Girls Clubs attempts do with partnerships like the one with USTA Mid-Atlantic,” Gales said. “Most of our elementary and middle schoolers are not given the opportunity to play sports after school unless they are playing for the Boys & Girls Club. And because most of our children come from below poverty income households, getting exposed to anything outside of what they are able to play in their front yards seems impossible to obtain.”

Gales is grateful that USTA Mid-Atlantic invested in the future of hundreds of local kids and is hopeful that the partnership will continue.

“We would love to have the opportunity to have USTA Mid-Atlantic come again during the school year,” she said.

This school year, USTA Mid-Atlantic is delivering their tennis programming after school in both Prince William and Fairfax counties, with hopes of expanding into many of the schools that serve the BGCGW participants. With tennis programming being provided immediately following the school day within school buildings, the organization aims to create a safe environment that gives kids a positive outlet and shows them the way to healthy habits for life and continues the lessons learned during the summer.

But support is needed to make programs like the one delivered this summer with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington available for low to no-cost to the students in these under-resourced communities.

With your help, USTA Mid-Atlantic can bring more tennis programs to these kids and meet the goal of reaching 4,256 youth with after school tennis programming and enrichment. You can show your support by making a donation today.  


 

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.

 

 

This is Mid-Atlantic Tennis: Hunter Koontz

This post is part of a series that tell the stories of how tennis has influenced people’s lives in the Mid-Atlantic Section and how lives are positively shaped by tennis. Just a few weeks ago, stand-out Mid-Atlantic player Hunter Koontz made his professional tennis tournament debut at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. And while this was a momentous moment, what’s more impressive is how he is influencing lives on and off the court too.

If you talk to diehard tennis fans about the Citi Open, a professional tennis tournament in Washington D.C., and ask them their favorite time to go to the event, most will say the first weekend. I’m sure you’re asking yourself “but why?”  That’s simple: The first Saturday and Sunday of the event, professional ATP and WTA players are walking the grounds freely to their practice courts (tip: snag those autographs and selfies!) and you can watch local players grinding it out to get one step closer to the Main Draw.

And such was the case for Richmond native, Hunter Koontz. You may know him as a top ranked junior player in Mid-Atlantic or stand out player at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA), but at Citi Open on Sunday, July 29, Koontz was leaving it all out on the court battling France’s Vincent Millots (11) in Round 1 of Men’s Qualifying.

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Mid-Atlantic standout, Hunter Koontz serves during his first professional tennis tournament appearance

A set down, the second set got tighter and the cheers got louder. In the stands were Koontz’s former high school teammates from Deep Run High School (Richmond, VA), friends from Virginia Tech, fellow Richmond natives, and the loudest of all – Country Club of Virginia members. Koontz, an Assistant Tennis Pro at the Country Club of Virginia, noted “a few of the CCV members were really bringing the fire with the cheering which really meant a lot to me.”  Obviously Koontz has played hundreds of tennis matches in his lifetime, but this one in particular gave him a little extra energy to take the second set with all of the support in the stands.

Blaine Davies, a former high school tennis teammate at Deep Run, was in the stands living every point with Koontz. “The coolest part of watching Hunter play was that I know it had to be inspiring for any Richmond kids in the crowd to see someone from our area competing at a professional tennis tournament.”  To that point, Koontz hopes he can inspire the juniors he works with at CCV to reach their tennis goals and cultivate the next generation of greats in his hometown. Working with CCV Head of Junior Tennis, Mason Wright, Koontz focuses on junior league play and game-planning clinics to help youth excel on and off the court.

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Koontz inspiring the next generation of tennis greats, signing autographs for young fans

While Koontz couldn’t hold off Millots in the third set he was “happy those that came to support got to see a fun match with some exciting points” at his first professional tennis tournament.

Davies, who recently joined the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section staff as a recreation programs assistant, was smiling ear to ear as Koontz walked off that court. “What sticks out for me the most is how lucky I was growing up playing tennis in Richmond. Hunter was such a supportive teammate; he created a strong team culture and helped everyone improve.” Koontz may not realize the impact he has made in his local community with each individual he has come across on the tennis court. Luckily, when asked about his five year plan, Koontz responded “I would like to think I will be in Richmond teaching tennis and helping as many people as I can.” Also on the agenda is marrying his fiancé, Madison, in June 2019. “Things could look a lot different in five years. Perhaps I will have started to work on Hunter Jr.’s hand-eye coordination by then…”

Play Tennis This Fall in Northern Virginia – Try Combo Mixed!

If it has been a while since you have played USTA Leagues in Northern Virginia or if you have been playing tennis recreationally and want to ease into more organized play, USTA Mid-Atlantic has the perfect solution for Northern Virginia players – NOVA Combo!

The NOVA Combo Mixed League is a USTA League offering in the Mid-Atlantic Section for players age 18 and older that want to play doubles and have fun playing tennis in the Northern Virginia area! This fall, Combo will be offered in coed teams and in team NTRP levels of 6.5, 7.5, and 8.5.

In the NOVA Combo League:

  • Players of different abilities can partner up and play together (up to a 1.5 differential)
  • Partners can combine ratings to equal the team’s rating
    • For example in the 7.5 level of Combo, a player with a 3.5 rating can partner with a 4.0 player.
  • Teams can advance to a Regional Championship
  • Emphasis is on a social and fun experience – join in the action with some friends or get connected to a team and make some new ones! Just like tennis is a lifetime sport, tennis friends are friends you will have for life.
  • League play starts September 15

There are five steps to get started playing in the NOVA Combo league:

Step 1: Renew or join USTA as a member

As a USTA Member, you’ll not only get more involved in the game you love, but you’ll enjoy many perks. You’ll get discounts on US Open merchandise, travel, entertainment and more. You’ll get early access to tickets and discounted seats and top tournaments. And you’ll have the chance to play in recreational leagues – such as NOVA Combo – and tournaments in the Mid-Atlantic and nationwide.

Step 2: Get your NTRP (National Tennis Rating Program) up-to-date

NTRP ratings are used to identify and describe characteristics of tennis-playing ability and help you understand which level you should play at based on a variety of factors. New players can self-rate to obtain an NTRP rating (please note that a USTA Account is needed to obtain a self-rating). You can also contact Cassie Nocera, at the USTA Mid-Atlantic office to help you through this process.

Step 3: Find a NOVA Combo team

The best way to find a NOVA Combo Mixed team is to contact the Local League Ambassador, Alice Hume. Local League Ambassadors are champions for USTA Adult Leagues in the Mid-Atlantic. Alice works day-to-day to coordinate league play and ensure seasons run smoothly. She is currently forming teams for NOVA Combo Mixed league play, so now is the best time to contact her to get on a team.

Step 4: Register for your team

Once you find your team, you can go to USTA’s TennisLink site to register online for the season.

Step 5: Grab your tennis racquet and hit the courts

Get your racquet in shape – check those strings and overgrip – and head out to your favorite tennis courts to get ready to play. The NOVA Combo Mixed League season will start on Sept. 15. Your team captain will be in touch with you about matches, when and where you will be playing and other opportunities to get together with your team.

If you have other questions or need help, contact Cassie Nocera or email leagues@mas.usta.com. You can also browse other Leagues happening in the Mid-Atlantic on the USTA Mid-Atlantic league calendar available here.