Tennis Today, Endless Possibilities Tomorrow

I am a coach because I want to be a positive influence on youth and their perspective on tennis; I want to foster a love for the sport that will benefit them for a lifetime.

My name is Raith and I am a coach in the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section after school tennis program. I’ve been a tennis coach for a few years and I enjoy coaching in this program because you can see your students getting better and having fun! In this tennis program, children learn how to be successful, in sports and in life, and to me, that speaks volumes for their future.

I started playing tennis when I was very young, around five or six years old. I loved sports growing up, but what I loved most about tennis was that I could really focus on my game and improve. Tennis helped me be a better athlete overall, developing my hand, eye and foot coordination. Now as a coach, I get to see this type of growth from the children I teach in the after school tennis program.

USTA Mid-Atlantic’s after school tennis program is structured in a unique way that I haven’t seen from other tennis programs. I love how we focus on ensuring kids have fun, while actually playing tennis so they can successfully build skills. The use of lower bouncing balls and equipment sized right, meets children where they are so they have success, have fun and want to keep coming back to learn more. There is a real emphasis on the overall development of the child as a whole person and whole athlete, which is a real differentiator.  

I saw this, first-hand, in one of my students that had a little bit extra energy and a hard time being patient during our sessions. I was able to have that child channel the energy into a fun game that works on hand-eye coordination to bump the ball on the racquet while waiting for a turn in the larger group activity. The student did this while waiting and quickly got into focus. Very soon, the student got really good at the activity so we stepped it up to hitting a ball against the wall. The student’s focus and control improved and it was a great lesson that the child can take into the classroom and in life – when you put your mind to it and focus, you can do great things.  

Tennis is a lifetime sport and through the USTA Mid-Atlantic after school tennis program, children are developing skills for a healthy, active life that will benefit them for years to come. This is why it is so important to support the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s after school tennis program. More children need to be exposed to tennis through this program and USTA Mid-Atlantic is on a mission to introduce tennis to many more kids.

You can help by making a tax deductible donation.

When you make a tax deductible gift of $100.74, that donation will cover the cost of equipment, high-quality curriculum, and instruction for one child in the program. And USTA Mid-Atlantic has an anonymous donor that will match all donations made up to $10,000 for 2019, which is a great chance you don’t want to miss to double your impact when you give now.

I hope you will join me in supporting USTA Mid-Atlantic as they bring tennis to more children throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Tennis is a great opportunity for children to be successful in building skills that will serve them their entire lives.

Thank you for reading my coaching story and why I support USTA Mid-Atlantic’s after school tennis program. You can also read other stories from coaches like me to continue to learn about the impact of this program.

I hope to see you and more children on the courts soon!

Sincerely,

Raith

Proud Coach, USTA Mid-Atlantic After School Youth Tennis Program

P.S. USTA Mid-Atlantic has reached more than 1,300 kids so far in 2019 and more than 10,000 overall since the program’s inception in 2016. Your tax deductible gift of $100.74 will help another child experience the love of tennis.

The Power of Coaching

I love tennis because it changed my life; I coach tennis because it has the power to change the lives of others! My name is Noe, and I moved from El Salvador to the United States and started my career as a tennis teaching professional. It is especially moving to see what the sport of tennis can do for a child and I want to continue to bring the benefits of this sport to as many children as possible. I’m sharing my experiences and telling you how you can help more children learn tennis by supporting USTA Mid-Atlantic.

“Always have fun!” I constantly stress this to my students that I coach in the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s youth tennis after school and summer camp programs.

Each week, I see children of all different backgrounds put a racquet in their hand and have fun together.

Growing up, I came from a poor community and didn’t have a way to play tennis. I am so impressed that this program helps make sure all children can learn the sport, no matter the circumstances.

In addition to working progressively each week on different tennis fundamentals, each session also engages participants in activities focusing on leadership skills and character development. These are the lessons that will shape children for life.

Let me share an example:

Earlier this spring, I was doing a fun challenge game with a group of my students. I was so inspired by one student in particular and how his practice outside of the program helped him focus on his game and control over the ball. When kids start the program they want to hit the ball as hard and as far as they can. In this game, the student-focused hard on controlling the ball and keeping it in play. He was able to rally and get the game moving with his peers. And the best part of the story is that it had only been a few weeks since the students picked up a racquet for the first time.

This is the magic of the USTA Mid-Atlantic tennis programs for kids. Given the success of each program, the USTA Mid-Atlantic is committed to expanding the program reach – especially to schools and communities that are economically disadvantaged and need tennis programs the most.

They cannot do this alone, they need your support to introduce tennis to more kids in the Mid-Atlantic region. A tax deductible gift of $100.74 covers the cost of equipment, a high-quality curriculum, and instruction for one child in the program.

This year, an anonymous donor will match all donations up to $10,000 for 2019. Join me and double your gift and impact by giving today because every child deserves this experience.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story about the power of tennis and the power of USTA Mid-Atlantic.

Sincerely,

Noe

Proud Coach, USTA Mid-Atlantic After School Youth Tennis Program

P.S. USTA Mid-Atlantic has reached more than 1,300 kids so far in 2019 and more than 10,000 overall since the program’s inception in 2016. Your tax deductible gift of $100.74 will help another child experience the love of tennis.

Scholarship Program Helps Brothers Excel in Tennis and Life

It started by hitting balls against a wall. For then four-year-old Amir C., he had no choice to be at the tennis courts with his grandparents and brother who was training and competing in tennis at a higher level. To pass the time, he would hit balls against a wall, but everything changed when someone saw a talent in him that couldn’t be ignored. Red ball, orange ball, green ball, he improved through the USTA Mid-Atlantic’s youth tennis progression and now at 11 years old, is expertly competing in junior tournaments throughout the Mid-Atlantic and nationally.

But for Amir’s family, he and his brother Mikeal’s competitive tennis mean a lot of sacrifices especially financially. The boys are being raised by their grandparents and since they are retired the family has limited income. But they’ve had support from USTA Mid-Atlantic’s scholarship program for both boys over the years to help cover some costs such as travel to major tournaments.tennis-hitting-wall-tennis-ball-hoffmann

“I fully support the Mid-Atlantic scholarship program,” says Mikeal and Amir’s grandmother, a tennis player herself and along with the boys’ grandfather, their primary caregiver. “It is extremely hard financially, and the scholarships that we have been fortunate enough to get have been a life saver. It has assisted us in paying tournament fees and travel costs.” 

When Mikeal and Amir were younger, their grandparents began totting the boys along  to the courts. It was only natural that both boys got into the sport. Older brother Mikeal fell in love with tennis and began competing in tournaments when he was seven. Now, he is 17 and is looking into playing Division I collegiate tennis.

And there are many families just like this one, whose children are dreaming big and performing on the tennis court that need help to keep those dreams going. You can be the one that supports the dream and makes a difference.

As can be the case in competitive junior tennis, costs to train and travel tend to increase as young athletes progress. For highly competitive junior tournament players, their tennis experience and development includes traveling to local and regional tournaments, extra hours on the tennis court training and frequent purchases of new equipment.

These costs can be a significant barrier for many families in the Mid-Atlantic region, especially those of low-income. This can mean some families are faced with really tough financial decisions, especially when every dollar counts.

At USTA Mid-Atlantic Section, our ultimate vision is that every child in the Mid-Atlantic plays tennis. We don’t want any child precluded from playing tennis because of financial challenges. We know how important and powerful it is to provide youth a healthy, empowering and enriching activity that can launch the next generation into a successful future.

That’s why we have a scholarship program that supports high performance junior players in need and you can help more kids grow through tennis when you support our programs too.

“Whatever the amount of the scholarship, we have put it to great use on the kids. It has allowed them to be able to play the bigger tournaments that we would otherwise not be able to afford to participate in. They both have really improved their tennis by being able to compete at some of these national tournaments,” says Mikeal and Amir’s grandmother.

She also says that tennis has truly shaped the boys lives for the better, giving the boys friends for life and the know-how to treat and respect their friends. She says they have learned good sportsmanship and integrity, and how to be organized thanks to tennis. And that the sport has made them want to have healthier habits and keeps them grounded.

She adds, “We really appreciate the funds we receive for their tennis. The expenses add up really fast, especially if you have more than one player to support. So much is needed and the scholarship program is a great help to families.”

Last year, USTA Mid-Atlantic was able to provide six players scholarships that totaled $2,500.

We want and need to do more for our youth and families in the Mid-Atlantic that may be struggling financially but that are striving for excellence on the tennis court. Are you able to make a gift and support our scholarship and other programs that help keep kids in the sport?

Make a donation today to USTA Mid-Atlantic and support the future of our sport.

USTA Mid-Atlantic is a tax exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service and has the Guide Star Silver Seal of Transparency. 

 

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.

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.