Organizer of the Month
September 25, 2018
Each month, USTA Eastern selects one passionate advocate who has made unique
contributions within the community through tennis. The love and enthusiasm that this
teacher, tennis coach and dad of four has for the sport is helping kids in Newburgh,
New York soar to new heights.
Tennis Organizer of the Month: September 2018
Playing with Passion
After several years of coaching the Newburgh Goldbacks Boys Varsity tennis team,
Coach Dennis Maher of Walden, NY, realized that something important was missing.
“The kids were practicing and taking lessons, but the overall culture of the team lacked
passion,” says Maher. “My high school players were not continuing to play after they
graduated, and I wanted to change that and help them develop a true love for the sport.”
Maher established the Goldback Tennis Club in 2012, starting as a simple booster club
to help support the varsity tennis team at Newburgh Free Academy High School that
has since evolved into a robust community tennis association and budding junior tennis
and learning organization that served nearly 400 children over the 2017-2018 school
Goldback Tennis Club offers before- and after-school tennis programs at each of the
nine elementary schools in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District, as well as an
additional program in a neighboring district. The families of the Newburgh community
confront significant economic challenges, and these issues greatly impact the schools.
The school district receives title 1 school funds, as more than 40 percent of the students
are considered low-income. Moreover, 85 percent of the district’s children qualify for
free or reduced cost lunch.
“We are introducing hundreds of kids to the game who would otherwise never have
access to it,” said Maher. “The program is free and removing the financial barrier has
grown the game in Newburgh exponentially.”
Goldback Tennis Club now offers a variety of different tennis programs that are
available to children ranging in age from four to 11, including a modified elementary
tennis league that runs through the winter months at Sportsplex in New Windsor for kids
in grades 3 -5. They also offer programs in local parks in the spring and “Fun Fridays,”
an after-school program where kids can play tennis, try other sports and have access to
tutors from local Mount St. Mary’s College.
“Many of my JV and varsity high school players help me run some of these programs
adding another dimension to their tennis experience,” said Maher.” These high school
players have opportunity to volunteer and give back. It really cultivates an untapped
passion for the sport that is contagious.”
The success of the club has led to success for the high school team as well. The Varsity
Boys Tennis Team at NFA have won the Division I team title in five of the last seven
years, and this year four of its club players are going on to play college tennis, a result
that gives Maher enormous pride.
Clearly, the future is bright for the Goldback Tennis Club and Maher and his volunteers
have a laser-focus on serving the children in the Newburgh District. Over the next
several years, Maher is working to renovate some local courts that are not playable in
their current condition, two of which could potentially be bubbled.