From Player to Provider - Manu Somakumar
Did you know there are thousands of providers in the Mid-Atlantic dedicated to growing tennis in the Section? Whether they’re a coach guiding you how to hit your first forehand as a junior, a tournament director ensuring a championship event runs smoothly, or a certified teaching professional providing you with your lesson, providers are at the forefront of tennis advancement in the Mid-Atlantic.
One such provider that is making a difference and excelling in the Section is Manu Somakumar. His passion for tennis grows with every event sanctioned.
His interest in tennis started in 2007 when he came across beginner training videos on YouTube. Through commitment and hours of practice, Manu advanced naturally and secured his spot in various USTA National tournaments, and was one of the top-ranked players in the Section. Fast forward to today, he is now a coach, tournament director for the Section, and with his USTA Safe Play training is committed to teaching the next generation of tennis greats and creating supportive environments for growth and appropriate development.
Recently, we connected with Manu to learn about his experiences and gain insider knowledge on what it is like to be a tennis provider in the Mid-Atlantic Section. We share Manu’s first-person essay on what being a tennis provider means to him.
I am Manu Somakumar. Two decades ago, I moved to the USA from India.
I was an established cricket and star player in my college days. I picked up tennis in 2007 for recreation. Instantly I fell in love with the sport and ended up playing various USTA National tournaments. I was one of the top-ranked players in the Mid-Atlantic region those days. Today, competing in tournaments has taken a back seat, for now, because my young daughter is competing in National tennis events.
I am a self-taught tennis player. With my passion for the sport, I invested countless hours on YouTube training videos and spent hours training on the backboards. This helped me get to the top rankings in the Mid-Atlantic Section among Adult players.
I then started coaching kids in the area and eventually started MSK Tennis Academy. Several of my students have competed in USTA tennis tournaments at the highest levels.
My focus is always on under-resourced kids who cannot afford big academies. MSK Tennis Academy focuses on community outreach programs and runs several camps for kids. I am also a part of a nonprofit called Kerala Association of Greater Washington (KAGW), which is an organization for Malayalees (Malayalam speaking people or the people from the South Indian state of Kerala) in the Washington metro area. It has served as the bedrock for all types of arts, cultural and literary activities for Keralites in this area. At this organization, I lead the Secretary & sports chair positions. (www.kagw.com)
During the pandemic, I realized that kids needed opportunities for physical activities. When Government agencies shared that tennis was one of the safest sports to participate in during the pandemic that is when I took action. I had organized several sold-out tennis events with KAGW. Then, I approached Rachel Kros, the associate director of youth play and adult tournaments for USTA Mid-Atlantic, with the proposal of running beginner level L7 & L6 tournaments in my local area. The goal was to introduce players to competitive play in a fun and welcoming way. The team at USTA MAS was extremely supportive and I started running intermediate USTA tournaments for juniors. Right from the beginning, they were great events! Plus, it was an affordable way to give kids the opportunity for physical activity through tournaments in convenient locations so they wouldn't have to travel far.
Tennis is an inevitable part of my life for me and my daughter. We were active followers and players but now, we are providers as well. Providing these types of tournaments gives an opportunity for kids who I trained in underserved areas to play in a competitive environment. This is my way of giving back to the community in the form of this wonderful sport.
The most important aspect which makes tennis unique from other sports is that this is an individual sport where players need to make quick decisions by themselves and adapt quickly to the changes. As there is no coaching in the middle of the matches it helps with the decision making, self-focus, and independent thinking. Kids get fit by playing on a regular basis. It requires a lot of dedication, patience, passion, and self-belief to master this sport. I am always there to guide any young person that walks on a tennis court regardless of their race and color or origin.
The Mid-Atlantic section is rich in terms of diversity and it is amazing to see kids from all the communities coming together and having healthy competition. In my experience, I have seen that there are amazing talents in the under-resourced communities and I would like to do whatever I can from my end to find the talent and train them and make them successful athletes.
I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to USTA Mid-Atlantic for promoting the game of tennis by having tournaments of multiple skill levels so that kids from the Section can play locally and in a way that is accessible to them. USTA Mid-Atlantic is always motivating young talented kids by using the social media platform very efficiently. All these initiatives help them grow into young men and women who are independent and successful in their personal and professional lives through the skill that they learned on tennis courts and competitions.
I would like to sign off as the great Roger Federer says – “There is no way around hard work, Embrace It. “
At USTA Mid-Atlantic, we believe tennis creates character and we support our tennis providers in the work they do to cultivate the next generation of tennis players and leaders in our region. As we continue to highlight Mid-Atlantic tennis providers we will be spotlighting those who are on a mission to grow the game for ALL in the Section. You can find those spotlights on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and we encourage you to share and join the conversation.
USTA Mid-Atlantic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that helps people and communities grow stronger, healthier, and more connected through tennis. Learn about our impact in the Section and how you can help bring tennis to more communities throughout the region.