Hooks Makes New England Tennis History at 25
NORWALK, CT - It’s safe to say, Marcus Hooks has accomplished more in his tennis career than the average 25-year-old. That’s because he’s not your average 25-year-old. In just a quarter century, Hooks, who grew up in Norwalk and Stamford, CT, played college tennis, is in his 10th year coaching, founded his own Community Tennis Association (CTA), serves on the USTA Connecticut Board of Directors and has now made history as the youngest member of the USTA New England Board.
And his tennis journey is just beginning.
When you take a look at Coach Hooks, as his students call him, it’s hard to overlook his glaring passion for the game. It’s when you get to know him however, that you’ll quickly discover his commitment to helping others far surpasses that.
Hooks learned to play tennis informally at his local park as well as at the Stamford Boys & Girls Club. As he got older, he received more formal tennis training, played in high school and college and gained valuable professional experience as a coach, including at the same Boys & Girls Club he grew up at. It wasn’t until last January however that Hooks decided it was time to take the next step in his tennis career and give back in a way he wished someone had when he was a kid.
After months of research, planning and paperwork, his new CTA, Six Love, was born.
“I just wish I had something like this when I grew up,” Hooks said. “I could only play with dad. The Boys and Girls Club had a program but it was unorganized and no one really wanted to play tennis back then. I never got to have an experience like these kids do.”
Six Love’s programming was delayed because of COVID-19, and even though it started running in the fall, Hooks already has a Board of Directors, a youth council, a steady faction of players and has big plans for the future.
He currently teaches a weekly yellow ball program for middle and high school players at New Canaan Racquet Club, where he also works as a tennis pro. He plans to start a similar orange ball program in the coming weeks, and by the summer, hopes to run his Mini Tennis Buddies program for beginner players in grades 3-5.
“I eventually want this to be the place you can go in the community to play tennis your way, and in creative ways,” Hooks said. “Before anyone can be good at tennis, they have to be a tennis player and have that base. For us it's about being a tennis player, and then we can filter you into whatever type of player you want to be, whether it’s high performance, college or recreational.”
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On the educational side, his youth council features 15 students. Creating a program that gives students the opportunity to learn and grow in a real-world setting was something Hooks made a priority when launching the CTA.
The council elected officers, wrote a mission statement, has regular meetings and has goals of fundraising and introducing their peers to tennis.
Hooks’ girlfriend, Amy Lafleur, serves as the treasurer of Six Love and works directly with the youth council as their advisor.
“What’s better than getting their own peers into the sport,” Hooks said. “I’m just thinking about getting and keeping these kids in the USTA and in tennis, and I want to set them in the right direction so when it comes time for them to maybe join the USTA Connecticut Board or USTA New England Board, they will be excited and ready. By time they get to be 25, they’ll be way more advanced than I am.”
Hooks has his mind set on a bright future for the sport of tennis and youth players, and he thought to himself what better way to expedite that vision than by joining the USTA New England Board of Directors.
“I looked at the questions that the Board hoped to address and those were some of the issues I’ve wanted to talk about, so I casually applied and didn’t really know where it would take me.”
Despite his deep desire to serve, Hooks remained cautiously optimistic, thinking it was likely a longshot to be elected at his age.
Much to his surprise, he received a call letting him know he had been selected and would be sworn in at the January 2021 Board Meeting.
“His deep desire to grow and learn and contribute towards the mission of USTA New England, made him an ideal candidate to join the Board,” said Bill Leong, Senior Director, Association Executive Management & Innovation for USTA and directly supports diverse section initiatives. “Marcus' background and experience in diverse community engagement will add different perspectives to the Board room and will bring a positive business impact for the organization.”
“Being elected to the Board means a lot to me. It’s crazy to think where I started in tennis to now having a big say in what happens in New England,” he said. “I feel I’ll be impactful because of my outside view of the sport. There’s a box around tennis and I grew up on the outside looking in. The fact that I think that way and come from a place where tennis wasn’t popular, will help in the ongoing battle we’re trying to solve by getting new kids to play the game.”
To learn more about Hooks and Six Love, visit www.sixlovetennis.org.
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