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.

 

 

Q&A with Coach Enoch Thompson

Enoch Thompson has been a pillar in the DC tennis community for decades. Last year, he was named a USTA Local Hero for his work on the court and acting as a positive role model for youth. We caught up with Enoch to ask about his tennis journey and tennis in Washington over the years.

What brought you to DC?

I came to DC in 1970 to study architecture at Howard University from the Exuma Islands in the Bahamas.

How long have you been playing tennis? How did you get started ?

I was gifted a set of racquets my junior year at Howard University. I was no longer playing baseball and needed something to do. I have never taken a  tennis lesson. I taught myself to play by watching others and reading.

What or who inspired you to learn and continue to play tennis? What inspired you to teach?

Growing up in the Bahamas, tennis was looked at as a “girl” sports, and I admired Arthur [Ashe] and Pancho Gonzales. My entire family plays tennis; that includes my wife and four children. When my children began to take on tennis competitively, I caught the coaching bug.

How did baseball play a role in the development of your tennis career as professional tennis instructor?

In baseball you can foul off a million balls and still have the chance to hit a home run, unlike tennis where the ball is either in or out. Baseball taught me to focus and life lessons from being on a team

How has tennis changed since you started teaching  and playing? What is the most profound change you have seen?

Just with technology tennis has changed so much. There is no way you could play with a wooden racquet now. You would  have all kinds of tennis elbow. The biggest change I’ve seen is the 10U format. 10U tennis has made for an early start into to tennis for kids, just like other sports have. With the modify equipment we [tennis instructors] are able to make more with less and be creative when it comes to teaching. Tennis can be played outside of a regular court and even without a net. That was the real game changer when it comes to accessibility.

Being in the nation’s capital where the most political decisions are made, do you think politics has played a role in how tennis has changed here ? How so or why not?

In some ways politics has changed tennis here in DC. Tennis has always been powered by the people. With the different pockets of tennis all over the city the community isn’t really cohesive .

What would you consider to be the turning point in tennis for players of color?

After the age of Arthur, Althea and Poncho, came a lot of great players of color. People of color had a face in the tennis. Serena and Venus have been just great. Things really began to change for players when people like you [USTA MAS staff member Ebonye Jones] began to take on roles with the USTA. Information and resources like trainings became easier to access to be in the community.

What do you love the most about tennis?

The love that comes with the game . Friends become family with tennis . My entire family plays tennis and the game has been the consent activity that brings us together. A family that plays together stays together.

If you had one advice to your younger self what would it be?

Be flexible when people offer criticism.

2016 Mid-Atlantic Award Winners

Gain Inspiration from These Six Award Winners

USTA Mid-Atlantic (USTA MAS) was pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Impact, Inclusion and Innovation awards for the Section at this year’s Conference and Awards ceremony on November 12, 2016. This is the second year USTA MAS has awarded trophies to deserving individuals and organizations who are working hard to promote and develop the growth of tennis in the community.

This year’s award winners are a diverse group that has a commonality – a passion for getting more people of all ages playing tennis. From an organization that has gone above and beyond to encourage diverse populations to play tennis to an individual using the latest social media technology to get more people out on the courts, these six winners are ones to watch in the Section. They are also great role models for others who also want to make a difference in the tennis community.

 Instead of just telling you about them, take a look at the following videos to learn about each award winner and what makes their work so special.

2016 Inclusion Award (individual), Ann Tierney of Chesterfield, VA.

2016 Inclusion Award (organization), The Multicultural Children’s Tennis Association of Columbia, MD.

 2016 Innovation Award (individual), Pedro Graber of Arlington, VA.

 2016 Innovation Award (organization), the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association of Washington, DC.

 2016 Impact Award (individual), Jennifer Toomy of Norfolk, VA.

2016 Impact Award (organization), Montgomery TennisPlex, Boyds, MD.

Please join us in congratulating these award winners on their tremendous accomplishments in 2016.

We hope these stories are an inspiration to do more in your community to grow tennis, embrace inclusion and try new things to spark interest in the sport. You can also get involved by supporting USTA Mid-Atlantic in our efforts to reach underserved populations and enable more people – especially children – to play tennis and learn the sport of lifetime. You can simply text ACE to 80077 to make a $10 donation to USTA Mid-Atlantic to help our tennis enrichment scholarship fund.*

What do you find inspirational about the 2016 USTA MAS award winners? In what ways can you do more to promote and develop the growth of tennis in your community? Share your thoughts with us on social media and join the conversation.

Editor’s note: All award winner videos were produced in partnership with G-Fitz Productions.

*$10 donation to USTA Mid-Atlantic. Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. Text STOP to 80077 to STOP. Text HELP to 80077 for HELP. Full Terms: mGive.org/T Privacy Policy: mGive.org/P


Lauren Hoffmann, is the director of marketing, communications and membership for USTA Mid-Atlantic.