MAC Diversifies Prestigious Tennis Academy
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | October 21, 2016
MANCHESTER, MA- Manchester Athletic Club (MAC), the full-service tennis facility in Manchester, MA, is the only USTA Regional Training Center in New England and one of just eight throughout the country. The club features a prestigious junior training program, the MAC Tennis Academy, which is home to many high-performance juniors from across the globe and serves them full time as they strive to achieve their goals of playing tennis in college or professionally.
The MAC Tennis Academy was started in 2003 when Director Francisco Montoya was hungry to launch his own program after working at Nick Bollettieri’s academy in Florida for 10 years.
“The Florida experience was crucial because I learned what it takes to build a culture, to achieve goals and create those progressions,” Montoya said. “We started from zero here in many forms, which allowed us to be creative and do new things, rather than be in a place that was full and no room to innovate.”
From the beginning, Montoya saw the vision and had goals to grow and to provide the best possible facility for aspiring junior players. He was joined in his mission by MAC Director of Tennis, Todd Carpenter and Director of Junior Development, Dave Colby, who started at the club around the same time as Montoya. With the trio all on the same page, the MAC Tennis Academy got underway with about 8-9 students and slowly started growing.
Fast forward to 2016, and the academy boasts a total of 90 high-level players, 65 of which exclusively attend the MAC.
For years, a handful of full-time academy students would enroll in an online schooling program in order to commit the most time and energy into improving their game. Just this September however, Montoya added a new wrinkle to the academy. He founded what is now known as Manchester Prep, a homeschool program that features tutors and supervisors and emulates the social setting of a classroom.
Many students travel a great distance to attend the program and are set up to live with local host families. The program currently features 18 full-time middle school and high school students who spend their days alternating between tennis and studying sessions.
“These kids show up at 8:30 and get going into their routine with great support from our staff. One day of what these kids go through and I’d need a week off. But they have fun with each other and it’s totally a ‘cool’ thing,” Montoya said. “I have three daughters and they don’t play much tennis, but I wanted to start something that if one of my kids ever wanted to do it, I would feel comfortable with them participating.”
Felipe Ramirez-Luna, 18, a former No. 1 junior player in Colombia, came to the MAC in 2012 to train for the Orange Bowl, and in September, he enrolled in Manchester Prep.
“The MAC is an unbelievable place to be. Everyone is very nice, kind, and the coaches and fitness here are great. The studying is good, tutors are very helpful, and this has been a great experience helping me for college,” Ramirez-Luna said.
As the academy has grown over the years, Montoya has needed to bring in new staff to work with the students. As direct mentors and role models to the players every day both on and off the court, Montoya understands the importance of selecting the right people and values the relationships his staff builds with the students.
“We’ve done a pretty good job keeping the coaches motivated and engaged, and coaching turnover is minimal, as everyone seems to like staying here,” Montoya said. “If you stay with a coach for a year and do a good job and the coach leaves, you have to figure out what to do next. I love recruiting guys coming out of college who want to make tennis their career and build them up and grow with the kids. We also have guys who have experience and love working with kids that have done a great job for us.”
“You know some of these kids for a year, some for five years, and you see them grow as tennis players and human beings,” said Tennis Pro Ricardo Munar, who started at the MAC in 2013. “It’s the most rewarding of all the things we do, just seeing them be successful, on court and off court at the end of the day. It pushes you to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Munar is just one of the many dedicated and committed staff at the academy. He, along with Montoya, Daniel Quiceno, Julian Ramirez-Luna and Ayda Ardila are all originally from Colombia. And in addition, Celeste Frey is from Argentina, Thomas Hlavaty is from the Chech Republic, and Danielle Monteith is British and Jamaican.
“We’re all different whether it’s cultural or personal styles, so we bring different things to the table but we all compliment each other in a way as well,” Celeste Frey, the Academy Manager said. “We all get along and we’re a big family here working towards the same goal, which is to see the kids develop their game and go off to college.”
And the kids have all become family as well—helping each other study, making college hitting videos together and just going through life together.
“It’s cool to see how much the academy has grown over the last 3-4 years,” Munar added. “Francisco and I saw 16-18 kids warm up in September and we looked at each other like wow, this is what we were expecting. It took a lot of work and effort from everyone, but it makes us so proud to see how much it’s growing.”
Although the new homeschool program is just picking up steam, Montoya is already thinking ahead, brainstorming ways to get ahead of the curve and prepare his students best for college and beyond.
“An ambition I have with the online school is to create a system when the kids come and do their high school here and graduate being bilingual. We have coaches that speak Spanish, and I’d like to have coaches that speak French and other languages as well,” Montoya said. “I really think it can happen with the traveling opportunities we can provide. It would be great if kids were graduating, going to college, playing tennis and already knowing a second language and are good kids on top of it. That would be a nice kid to send out.”
For more information or to get involved with the MAC Tennis Academy, visit their website.