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.

Tennis Providers: Earn a FREE Net Generation Tablet from USTA Mid-Atlantic

Don’t miss out! Make sure you and your programs are listed and searchable on NetGeneration.com.

As a Net Generation provider, you know you’ve got the expertise of the USTA, world-class coaching curriculum and innovative digital tools all available to you to help you do incredible things to get kids into tennis.

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Net Generation coaches are shaping the future of tennis! Join them and get free tools and resources. 

USTA Mid-Atlantic wants to make sure you don’t miss out on these great benefits and all that Net Generation has to offer, especially the Program Management Center. This is where you can list all of your programs so that parents seeking tennis instruction and fun for their kids can find you!

Add your programs to the Net Generation Program Management Center and you can be eligible to receive a Tablet ($150) pre-loaded with the Net Generation app from USTA Mid-Atlantic. We’re giving away up to 50 tablets, so hurry and get your programs listed by Friday, July 27.

Requirements to be eligible:

  1. Sign up as a provider on Net Generation and complete all of the registration steps, including approval of your NCSI background screen or complete the process if you have not done so.
  2. Agree to the provider standards in your provider profile. Once logged in to Net Generation, access the Provider Menu and click “Edit Profile.” The checkbox to accept the provider standards is at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Post a public youth tennis program on Net Generation. To be eligible, your program must start between July 1, 2018 and September 30, 2018. For additional information on how to access the Program Management Center, click here.
  4. Programs must be entered prior to July 27, 2018. We have 50 tablets available so post today so you can get your hands on one!

All types of tennis providers have shared how useful the Net Generation tools have been, such as the tennis professionals at the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center (MNTC) in Williamsburg, Va. They said, “MNTC loves Net Generation because it is an all-encompassing yet simplified and universal developmental platform for kids to succeed in tennis.  We love the ease and applicability of the assessments, competencies and curriculum. Net Generation connects our parents, players & coaches which will only continue to grow not only our junior programs, but tennis worldwide.”

For questions or assistance, please email Natalie Rogers at rogers@mas.usta.com.

Review the Summer Tablet Promotion_Official Rules.

Turning Love into Aces

The love for tennis knows no bounds. However, for some families, the cost of tennis can include more than just playing the game. For highly competitive junior players, the cost of tennis includes traveling to local and regional tournaments, extra hours on the court training and frequent purchases of new equipment. Every year, USTA Mid-Atlantic helps support these juniors and their families by providing scholarships that help ease the  financial impact associated with high levels of junior competition. Because of the support we receive from our members, players and donors, we are able to help junior players continue on his or her journey through tennis and becoming an ace both on and off the court. Read about why your support matters and what one scholarship recipient has to say about the impact our scholarships make.

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Dear USTA Mid-Atlantic:

My name is Jelani Sarr, and I am 13 years old. All my life I’ve been playing the game I love – tennis. Since no one in my family has ever played tennis, how I started playing tennis is kind of an unusual story.

My story starts with me, my cousin, and my stepdad, waiting for my mom outside of the local library. While she was inside getting books, my stepdad, who I call my Uncle Coach, was trying to keep me and my cousin busy by having us hit some tennis balls against the wall with some old wooden racquets he had in his trunk. I was only three years old. Since that day, I’ve played other sports, like football and wrestling, but I kept coming back to tennis. It just stuck. I’ve been playing competitive tennis ever since.

Tennis has made multiple impacts on my life. For one, I travel to places in the United States that are beautiful! I also meet new friends among my fellow players. When we are not on the tennis court, we don’t see each other as competitors but as friends. My parents’ lives have also been affected because they get to travel with me. They have supported me all my life and have never given up on me; we have grown so much together.

A proud moment for me, where I felt like I have given back to my parents, was when I received a Sportsmanship award after winning my first National tournament. To cap it all off, the tournament sponsor let me wear his Golden State Warriors championship ring. I felt like a real warrior that day!

I would like to say thank you to the USTA Mid-Atlantic scholarship program and to everyone who supports it. This scholarship has been so important to me and my family because it makes me feel good to see my parents receiving something for a change. My parents have worked really hard to provide me with opportunities in the sport of tennis and given me tools to go as far as I can. This scholarship is recognition for all tennis parents and their hard work for turning all their love into our aces.

Sincerely,

Jelani Sarr

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Jelani is an avid competitor in tennis tournaments across the nation and one of thousands in the Section that compete year-round with a dream of going pro. Support stories like Jelani’s by making a tax-deductible contribution to USTA Mid-Atlantic today! For more information about our fundraising initiatives, reach out to Helen Li at li@mas.usta.com.

 

A Coach’s Secret to Keeping New Players in the Game

By: Jeremy Carl

What is the easiest way to get any player new to tennis to keep playing?  Whether it’s beginner adults or 10 and under junior players, the ROGY Progression is without a doubt the best way.

For those unfamiliar, ROGY stands for Red, Orange, Green, Yellow – the color of the balls that can be used to teach kids and adult beginners in a more effective way. Red balls are the lowest compression and larger than the traditional yellow ball, meaning they don’t bounce as high and are easier to control. Orange balls have slightly higher compression than red balls and are the same size as yellow balls. The last step before traditional yellow balls is the green ball, which is similar to playing with a yellow ball but slows down the game and helps lengthen rallies through its lower compression.

I have really seen and experienced the benefits of using this progression in two ways:

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Jeremy Carl with his daughter accepting his USPTA Mid-Atlantic Pro of the Year Award in 2016. Photo: Mount Vernon Athletic Club

  1. My own seven-year-old daughter grew up using red balls since age three and half and is now loving playing orange ball level USTA tournaments
  2. Adults in beginner group classes learn how to
    rally from their first-ever tennis class by using red or orange balls from the get go

Here are the top reasons I’ve seen that make the USTA’s ROGY progression is so effective:

  • Helps Incorporate Fun Right Away – More than anything, my daughter loves playing the sport. A big reason for that is by using the ROGY progression throughout her learning process, she learned the sport through a game-based approach. She is not a fan of “drills.” (What kid is?) The only time she does like them is if she comes up with one herself.  Using red and orange balls have allowed her to rally and play games from an early age.
  • Helps Players Learn Situations in Tennis – Tennis is an open sport, and points develop in unexpected ways. However, sometimes lessons are too dependent on hitting in a closed environment, repeatedly hitting a forehand down the line for example.  Every world-class tennis player has learned how to play tennis as a game of situations, not as a game of perfection. Repetition is important but learning how to navigate points is also an extremely important skill to nurture. For example, you can coach players on ball recognition and making contact in the strike zone.

One game to develop these skills can be done by having an orange ball player at one baseline and a partner standing at the other baseline with a ball. The player with the ball tosses it to the other side of the court. Once the ball crosses the net, the player receiving the ball immediately calls out either “Defend,” “Hold,” or “Attack” and catches the ball between their waist and shoulder, slightly out in front of their body. If a player calls out the correct ball recognition and catches it in the strike zone, they get two points.  If a player just does one of the two, they get one point.  You can do this yourself when you go on court with a friend or if you are a coach, have teams compete against each other in class. Once they understand those two principles, you have the basis for learning about offensive, defensive and neutral court positioning.

  • Allows them to Practice Playing Front Court at an Early Age – One of the biggest coaching benefits of using the ROGY progression is that kids feel confident playing in the front court from an early age. They know the ball doesn’t hurt them even if it hits them, and it’s much easier to learn the correct footwork and volley form with the appropriate ball and court size. In the first TennisBASH my daughter played in, one of the first winning shots she hit in her doubles match was a volley winner at the net as the server’s partner. She did it with all the confidence in the world and with a split step before hitting the volley.
  • Helps Adults Enjoy Rallying Right Away – One of biggest themes I learned from completing the Adult Development PTR certification was that using orange or red balls are critical for early success of adults who are learning the game. It allows them to play a variety of rally games, learn footwork, contact point, ball recognition and other items through playing the game from the beginning, which they actually enjoy!

If you’re just starting out, ask about learning on red or orange balls. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Allows players to practice hitting shots with a purpose – Whether it be live ball drill, racket fed or hand toss drill, the balls allow kids to hit to a certain part of the court. Since the ball bounces at the appropriate height for their age, the ball can come to their optimal strike zone more easily, and therefore they can practice hitting down the line or crosscourt with correct swing path. This was one of the key principles I learned from being involved in the USTA Player Development National Early Development Camps.
  • Makes it Easier to Develop Proper Service Motion Early – One of the most important fundamentals on serve is swinging the racquet up toward the ball with full extension and rotating, regardless of a flat serve or spin serve.  When juniors use the appropriate color ball for their age, it gives them the confidence to hit through the ball since the balls actually weigh less.  This has made huge difference in my daughter learning the building blocks of the serve that allow her to play in USTA tournaments with confidence on her serve motion.
  • Helps Players Learn Proper Footwork – Studies have shown that players learning with this ball progression develop similar court footwork fundamentals to the pros. The appropriate size court helps build a foundation of footwork movement that they can develop as they grow bigger and taller.  It also helps them enjoy the movement of tennis because they’ll be able to reach more balls during a rally.

You want to get more people in the game of tennis? The answer is start off juniors or adults in the ROGY ball progression. Whether you’re a longtime coach or introducing the game to friends, or even getting yourself or your child in the game, using the proper ball can make a big difference in how much others enjoy playing tennis.

Look for red, orange and green balls in most places that sell tennis equipment. For more information on court sizes and ROGY progression in youth players, click here.


Jeremy Carl is a USPTA Elite Professional, PTR Professional and Safe Play-certified USTA High Performance Coach with Net Generation. He was named the 2016 USPTA Mid-Atlantic Pro of the Year and is currently coaching at Belle Haven Country Club after coaching at Mount Vernon Athletic Club in recent years.