Maine Comes Together for Day of Tennis
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | November 1, 2016
Brunswick, ME- Free racquets, balls, snacks and instruction from national champions—that was the formula the Maine Tennis Association (MTA)’s Youth Tennis Committee developed for its first ever Maine Youth Tennis Day. And it worked.
Approximately 60 young players of all ability levels showed up on Saturday, October 29, at Mine Pines Racquet and Fitness Center in Brunswick to either experience the thrill of tennis for the first time or to hone their skills.
“This was huge for our state. It shows we have a great tennis community here,” said Eliot Potvin, Director of Youth Programs at the Racket and Fitness Center in Portland and former ATP touring pro. “We don’t have a ton of tennis opportunities but it’s great for the kids to see there are so many other kids playing tennis, and it’s great we have so many people from these clubs coming together to enjoy the sport and hopefully help it grow.”
It’s about quality, not quantity within the Maine tennis community. Although relatively small in numbers, the MTA displays incredible passion and brings everyone together with the common goal of growing the game about as well as any district in New England.
Primarily tennis pros made up the Youth Committee, which spent countless hours during the event and behind the scenes planning beginning in April. The majority of the active clubs in Maine were represented in some capacity.
“This event was a great success. Parents enjoyed themselves, and I could tell the kids had a great time just by the noise level,” said Ron Friedman, Past President for both USTA New England and the Maine Tennis Association. “This is the kind of grassroots community that grows and develops tennis, so it’s spectacular to see people from all these clubs participating.”
Special guests at the event were the NCAA DIII National Champions, Bowdoin Men’s Tennis Team along with the National Semifinalist Women’s Team.
Players and tennis pros broke the kids up into groups based on age and ball color and led them in a variety of games and activities. Each kid also received an autographed ball from a member of the Bowdoin team.
“It was great to get out on the court and try to teach these kids a few things. I think it reminded us of why we play tennis and some of the things we enjoyed about playing tennis when we were young,” said Bowdoin junior Kyle Wolfe. “We play on these courts all the time, so it was great to give back to facility and to the community and to help grow tennis in Maine a little bit.”
Bowdoin College, also in Brunswick, encourages its athletic programs to be active in their local community from charity walks to fundraisers like Maine Youth Tennis Day.
Kids flocked to the college players all afternoon for tips, advice and just to talk tennis, and men’s head coach Conor Smith understands the importance of these interactions to both the kids and his players.
“People here know about the college and most of our sports teams, so when our college players feel that support locally from these little kids, they see themselves in a different light. It puts things into perspective even more and brings home what they are doing. It really lets them see the bigger picture.”
“We’re lucky to have such high level tennis right down the street. It was great of them to take the time and an inspiration for these kids to see,” Potvin added. “We asked the older kids if they wanted to play college tennis and it was a dream for most of them, so to have a national championship team come and hit with them is a cool opportunity.”
Thirteen-year-old Truly Chillemi, of South Portland, just started playing tennis this year, and although expectedly nervous coming into the event, she settled in quickly.
“I just wanted to come here to get better at tennis, and when I started playing it was really exciting,” she said. “I want to be like them some day, (Bowdoin players) and playing with them and kids who are a lot better than me, I like to see their skills and try to apply them to my game so I can continue to strive to be better.”
Ten-year-old Andre Violette on the other hand, used this event as final practice for an upcoming tournament.
“It was more fun than anything, but I also learned to maybe take a little bit off and add some more topspin,” the Yarmouth resident said. “They meshed everyone together well, the people were friendly and there were good coaches who wanted to help you get better.
The hope for the Youth Tennis Committee is that word from the event will spread amongst kids and parents and ultimately reach three to four times the amount of people, leading to similar events being staged throughout the state.
“This is the type of thing we can get recognition for and we want word to spread so we can give different areas the benefit of having these great opportunities,” Friedman said.
To see more photos from Maine Youth Tennis Day, click here.