Spreading the Love of Tennis to ALL
Through Team Challenges, Team Events, and Camps
The USTA Mid-Atlantic region is home to a vibrant tennis community, and as the sport continues to grow, it’s welcoming new players at a rapid rate. The overall tennis participation in the Mid-Atlantic increased 8.3% year-over-year in 2021 which is above the National tennis participation average of 7.4% according to the 2022 Tennis Participation Summary Report by Tennis Industry Association.
Players of all ages and abilities are picking up racquets and developing their skills with the support of passionate, committed, and knowledgeable tennis providers who are spreading the love of the game and the community in the region.
One of these tennis coaches dedicated to making a difference beyond the court is Michael Retta. A former competitive tennis player, Michael has become a leader in the Northern Virginia tennis community and is helping the next generation of players reach their tennis goals.
With a passion for growing the game, Michael created and launched House of Tennis. House of Tennis’ central mission is to engage young minds through tennis, character building, and scholastic development.
“Seeing kids excited to come into practice; and developing a bond with one another is what really drew me into coaching in the first place,” Michael said. “Youth tennis is difficult during the early stages, but seeing players continuing to come back as they develop their skills is rewarding — it’s helped me realize my process and commitment to growing the game is working,” he added.
“My goal with House of Tennis is to develop great tennis players, but also build a great community,” he said. “I want to create a place where coaches feel like they have a voice, players feel comfortable, and tennis is fun. In addition, I want to host events in the region that players and parents enjoy coming to.”
One way that House of Tennis is creating an environment where players of all levels can enjoy the lifelong benefits of tennis is by hosting USTA Mid-Atlantic Team Events. These events foster an environment that focuses on teamwork, sportsmanship, friendship, and FUN! Each event enables players to register as individuals and then they get placed on a team.
“My son participated in the USTA Level 4 Team Event BG12s hosted by House of Tennis, and I just wanted to take a moment to express what an amazing tournament experience we had,” said one parent who participated in the July 30-31, 2022 Team event. “Tournament Director Michael Retta hosted a fantastic tournament that my son and I will never forget. Mr. Retta made this experience a memorable one.”
Having more of these events throughout the Mid-Atlantic helps junior players understand how to work together as a team and highlight good sportsmanship. Through House of Tennis, Michael is committed to providing a respectful environment where all athletes can thrive, which is why he went through USTA’s Safe Play program and incorporates its guidance in his programs.
Michael shared more with USTA Mid-Atlantic on why growing tennis in the section is important to him and his plans for the House of Tennis...
USTA Mid-Atlantic: Tell us about yourself. How long have you been involved with tennis in the Mid-Atlantic?
Michael Retta: As a first generation Ethiopian-American, the Mid-Atlantic tennis community has been a family to me growing up. I picked up my first racquet at age 6. Tennis was exciting even as a child, and it served as a great way to make friends and stay active. My parents supported my dream and worked hard to enroll me in the best training programs in the Section, even when it was financially straining. And families across the Section helped too—-taking me to tournaments with them weekend after weekend. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University as a member of its prestigious tennis program. When my college career came to an end, I went on tour and traveled with Virginia 3x NCAA Champion Mitchell Frank, supporting his professional career as his full time coach. In 2021, I served as a volunteer assistant coach for the Men’s & Women’s tennis teams at Georgetown University. Fast forwarding to today I am working toward making quality coaching accessible to players of all ages, and helping youth in the area use tennis as a pathway toward continued education. Through House of Tennis, I have also created free tennis programming in coordination with the DC Boys & Girls Club. Recently, I accepted a position at The Madeira School in McLean, Virginia. This is my first time coaching high school tennis, and I’m looking forward to many more seasons here.
What is the most rewarding part about providing tennis to youth players in the Mid-Atlantic?
The most rewarding part for me has been the learning experience and the bond I share with my players. Seeing kids excited to come into practice, and developing a relationship with them is what really drew me into coaching in the first place. Youth tennis is difficult during the early stages, and being able to see players continue to come back makes me feel like my process of growing the game is moving forward. From a high performance perspective, it’s incredibly rewarding to see my players reach their ultimate goals, especially when it’s an ability to access a college education because of tennis. I know it’s a challenging journey that requires personal sacrifice, but when their hard work and dedication pays off, I can’t help but feel proud.
What has surprised you most about delivering tennis to youth players?
The growth over the course of the last few years. I think tennis in this area has grown exponentially in a short timespan. The USTA has put together some great programs and teaching portals that have helped educate both players and coaches in recent years. As a result, you are seeing tennis pop up in more school programs, through NJTL chapters, and overall youth participation. The path the USTA is currently on, one that promotes tennis for everyone, — is a big reason why I believe we witnessed a 22% increase in people playing tennis in 2020 vs. 2019. Additionally, hosting USTA Junior Circuit events has been really exciting for me. The level of competition and talent at these events, coupled with more kids expressing interest in learning how to compete from a young age, is really invigorating as a coach.
Do you have any tips for a player who is new to the game or thinking about playing tennis?
Find a friend who is willing to play with you and jump right in. Tennis is supposed to be a fun activity, and it’s also a great way to network and build strong relationships. If you don’t have many friends that play tennis in your area, USTA League tennis is a great resource to meet local players. Technology has made the sport more accessible than ever, but even going to your local park and finding a wall to practice on is a great way to have an incredible workout and work on your game before facing someone on the other side of the net.
USTA Mid-Atlantic creates a community through tennis and Michael shares a passion for building the tennis community. He is excited to use that passion to deliver high-quality tennis programming to all players at any level across the DMV. His motivation continues to come from the athletes he coaches.
“I am just happy to be giving back to the community that gave me so many opportunities growing up,” Michael said.
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.