From Tennis Hall of Fame to TeamFAME: Building Community Through Tennis
NEWPORT, RI - Founded in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame's primary mission has been to preserve its history and honor the game’s elite with induction while promoting the sport and providing inner-city youth the opportunity to learn the game on its historic grass courts.
In 2018, Marguerite Marano, a longtime employee of the Hall of Fame, spearheaded a free, after-school community-based program that combines tennis with academic assistance in addition to nutrition education, financial literacy, STEM and personal enrichment activities for under resourced middle school students in Newport, RI. TeamFAME – Future Aces Modeling Excellence was born.
The Hall of Fame provides two 13-passenger vans to pick up the students at school and drive them home. In its infancy, the program served 7th and 8th graders from the Newport Public School System twice a week. This past year however, 5th and 6th graders joined the program situated in the Canfield House on the grounds of this national historic landmark and Stanford White architectural gem.
The program provides the emotional support of being a team member in a structured environment. It has continued to expand since its inception due to the collaborative efforts of staff and the families to promote spirited, engaged young people maturing through their love of the game and the positive attributes it nurtures.
TeamFAME evolved from an after-school program to one that is year-round by offering two, seven-week summer sessions. This summer, mornings began with a new group of rising 5th graders while afternoons were comprised of rising 5th - 9th grade students.
The two groups participated in and reaped the benefits of academic mentoring, team building, field trips, healthy meals and tennis instruction. This past July during the second summer session, students took part in a fun, action-packed tennis workshop, a visit from the staff of the Newport Library and a trip to the Newport Art Museum.
On August 24, the second annual Sunset Slam took place at the International Tennis Hall of Fame to honor the inaugural graduating class of nine, TeamFAME student-athletes who will soon enter high school. It was an enjoyable evening of tennis and dinner reception which raised funds for this free community-based program that has enriched the lives of over 120 students and their families.
Several of the students were ball kids at the 2022 Infosys Hall of Fame Open this past July and all nine student-athletes in the inaugural graduating class will play tennis this fall at their respective high schools, including Rogers HS with its newly revived boys’ team.
TeamFAME future leaders from this graduating class of rising 9th graders will remain engaged as peer-to-peer mentors to incoming 5th graders, train as junior coaches and participate in college and career preparedness programs.
A principal goal is to attract young kids to the sport through community-based tennis then provide the requisite tools to develop as middle schoolers through TeamFAME. This four-year after-school and summer enrichment program has better prepared them for the challenges high school will present by instilling the discipline requisite for academic success as well as the commitment required to evolve into future community leaders.
“The program is a great way to build community through tennis,” said Marano, Director of TeamFAME. “The game embodies those characteristics that you want to have thriving in a community – honesty, teamwork, leadership and focus amongst so many others.”
The rapid growth of the program is due in large part to the diverse partnerships the Hall of Fame has cultivated including the USTA Foundation, USTA New England, Newport Public Schools, FILA, Citizens Bank and the University of Rhode Island's SNAP-Ed Program in addition to the generosity of individual donors.
The Hall of Fame van took to the road for an exciting field trip to New York City to experience Fan Week at the US Open. TeamFAME students were able to participate in a variety of activities in addition to watching players compete in the qualifying rounds or practice in preparation for the season’s final grand slam.
On August 25, the day following the Sunset Slam on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, I had the pleasure of speaking with several of the students from the inaugural TeamFAME graduating class.
Millena Carapia, from Portsmouth, RI, will attend St. George’s school this fall on a scholarship. During the Sunset Slam, she received the TeamFAME Character of a Champion Award which acknowledges one’s sportsmanship, positivity and commitment to improve.
I asked her why she thought TeamFAME was beneficial and would enrich the lives of other young students. She shared, “If you want to play tennis, just get started! It’s a perfect opportunity; you get to engage with kids your own age and the coaches are incredible. The academic help – it’s incredible because we get to be one-on-one with a coach and if we need any help with your homework, they can help explain.”
- Marguerite Marano, TeamFAME Director, poses with two students.
- TeamFAME players waiting to hit the courts.
- Players and staff pose for a photo at the Sunset Slam.
I asked Fayth Loper how she had grown over the past four years as a TeamFAME student. “I’ve become a more patient person, especially in academics and tennis because I know that doesn’t come as easy to me as other things. I’ve gained a lot more friends as a result of TeamFAME and have socialized with people that I never would have socialized with outside of tennis.”
I asked Joseph Renfrow if he played tennis before joining TeamFAME. “No, I haven’t; not at all. I like playing on grass; it’s my favorite. I focus on competitive playing and getting into the rankings and going pro during high school and I’m going to be playing, like doing tennis teams and going out to tournaments outside of Rhode Island and maybe to other countries too!”
I asked Gian Corleto what he will miss most about being a TeamFAME student. “What I’m gonna miss about TeamFAME is the experiences that I had and the bonds I made with each player and student and the community. I’d say we’ve grown as a family; we’ve seen each other’s ups and downs and we grew up together, so I’d say I’d miss everybody’s personality and everything special about them and playing tennis with them. I’ve made good friends, good life-lasting friends.”
I asked the TeamFAME director if any new goals for the incoming class had been identified. She informed me that, “We plan to focus on literacy – adding new curriculum and also working on math facts – creating a stronger foundation for learning. We are renovating four more rooms on the second floor of the learning center – two will be used for locker rooms and two will be used for non-traditional classrooms – brave space and mentorship rooms.”
TeamFAME is an NJTL (National Junior Tennis & Learning) chapter in partnership with the USTA and USTA Foundation. For more information and ways to donate, volunteer and help change young lives on and off the court, please visit tennisfame.com/teamfame/donate.