New England

Local community helps make young tennis player’s dream a reality

James Maimonis, Manager, Media & Communications | September 20, 2021

HAMPTON, NH - Oziera Ahmad’s tennis dream is quickly becoming a reality and it’s thanks to a village of her supporters. The daughter of a Malaysian immigrant, Ahmad, 16, whose goal is to play Division I NCAA tennis, took a major step closer to achieving that dream last November when she moved down to North Carolina to train full time. 


Ahmad grew up in Hampton, NH where her father, Oziee, first handed her a racquet at four years old. After moving to the United States in 1991 from Malaysia, Oziee, a high school tennis player, was forced to leave his tennis dreams behind due to a lack of money and support, something he refused to let happen to his daughter.  


“When I was a kid, I had to leave something that no one could teach me. I wanted to give her the opportunity I never had and didn’t want to blame myself if it didn’t happen,” Oziee said. 


He trained her at local parks and from early on, he knew he had something special in her. 


“I tried to teach her brother as well, but he quit tennis at 15. With Oziera, she was a great listener. She did things her brother couldn’t do, and I knew she’d be special,” he said.


Ahmad trained every day with her father, who took her to the courts, rain or shine, snow or sleet, and even on Christmas Eve. He was admittedly hard on her, constantly  pushing her to her limit and always expecting the most from her. 


“My dad was really tough on me. We had some arguments and back and forths. He pushed me to do my best and motivated me to be the best player I could,” Ahmad said. 


Oziee was so committed to giving his daughter the best tennis experience he knew how and could afford, that when she was 11 years old, he quit his job and discussed with his wife the possibility of taking her to Florida himself to train during the winter months. And sure enough, they packed their bags, loaded the minivan and were on their way.  


From December to April, Ahmad attended school in Tampa during the day, and in the afternoon and evenings, trained with her dad. They found a rest area and nearby park, which they would call their home until spring.


They made the same trip the following year, however this time around, Oziera received a scholarship to train at a nearby academy. 


“There were definitely times I didn’t want to go to Florida, and I’d fight a bit, but I had to face the fact I was starting something new,” Ahmad said. “I got used to it as the days went by, and I became grateful for the experience. I got to know what it was like to be a tennis player in Florida. The experience helped me grow up. It made me more appreciative of what I have at home, and I learned a lot.”


Upon returning home, Ahmad enrolled in online schooling so she could continue to train full-time with her dad.


In June 2019, she finally got her big break. Ahmad won the Girls’ 14 New England Junior Sectional Championships, resulting in a chain reaction that would re-shape the course of her training for the foreseeable future. 

While Ahmad’s previous training proved effective to that point, she craved more. She needed the addition of interaction and competition to motivate her against the best in New England.    


Shortly after her Sectionals run, New England tennis coach, Phil Parrish, who had worked with Amhad on-and-off over the years, introduced her to Laury Hammel, co-owner of the Longfellow Clubs in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Hammel took Ahmad under his wing, and both he and Parrish committed to training her full time, for free. 


“I trained almost every day with Laury and Phil. When it was me and my dad, it was just us out there, and this was a little more professional and I got to hit with other kids. It was more fun, especially because since they were all close with each other, I got to be a part of that. We did our best to push and motivate each other,” Ahmad said. 


She trained at Longfellow New Hampshire in Nashua. 


“Her dad did a great job, but it’s not a tennis program with other people to work out with,” Hammel said. “Oziera loves playing tennis and being with people who love playing tennis, and as soon as she jumped in, she started flourishing. She’s an exceptional athlete, but more importantly, she’s a really good learner. Playing every day against great competition is the kind of environment she thrives in.”


And it was shortly after, she was introduced to Advantage Kids, a National Junior Tennis and Learning chapter in New Hampshire that inspires thousands of kids every year through tennis and yoga.  


Since 2019, Oziera has been involved with Advantage Kids, which created ambassador and Excellence Programs for her to succeed both in a coach and player role. She has served as a volunteer mentor for a number of the students, engaging with them both on and off the court.  


“When we first met her, she was so humble that she wouldn’t come out of shell. We’d get one or two-word answers back and she was very shy, despite being a star on the court,” said Brittany Boles, Co-executive Director of Advantage Kids. “Through the ambassador program, we really put her on the spot. We said, ‘you’re a leader and an example to the kids.’” 


And that continued through the pandemic, where Ahmad truly shined. 


“I told her, ‘we’re in lockdown, so we’re going to need you to make training videos for the kids.’ So she did that, and through those opportunities she blossomed as a personality,” Boles added. “She went from one or two-word answers to now initiating conversations. She beams and has a presence on camera, and you can really feel her in a room.” 


“I love kids so much, and hanging out with them is just really fun for me. Watching them grow and seeing their improvements, it’s amazing that I could be part of the reason that they become what they are,” Ahmad said. “I respect coaches way more now. If I do become something in tennis someday, my success would be because of them and I would thank them all for that.” 


Advantage Kids has been vital in Ahmad’s competition and development, sponsoring many of her travel and event costs and providing a support system like no other. 


It all ultimately led to a life-changing opportunity Ahmad could only have dreamed of. Spearheaded by Advantage Kids Co-executive Directors Dawn Dragon and Brittany Boles and President Tim James, and in collaboration with a number of organizations including USTA New England, USTA New Hampshire and the USTA Foundation, Oziera was offered the opportunity to train full-time at the Greensboro Tennis Foundation in Greensboro, NC, an NJTL chapter and Excellence Program. 


Oziera trained and lived in North Carolina for the majority of the 2020 school year. She initially planned to stay for just the year, but after coming home to New Hampshire this past summer, she decided to return for a second year. 


"At first I thought to myself, 'do I actually want to do this? Would it be beneficial for me?' Initially I thought probably not because I wouldn’t be able to handle it myself, but then I thought about it and realized what a great opportunity it could be,” Ahmad said. “Turns out, I love the program. Everyone I’ve met so far has been great, had super positive vibes, and everyone is trying to help me do my best to succeed on a national level.”


She added, “To Advantage Kids, Laury, Phil, and everyone else that helped me along the way, I’m so appreciative and thankful for them. I have so many people supporting me, which sometimes can be hard, but it really makes me feel great, so I’m going with it and doing my best to succeed.”


“The thing that’s special about her, is she still has that humility piece all while she’s creating a presence about her that a star needs,” Boles said. “I do believe she has that and will take it far, and I like to think part of it has to do with being part of this organization.”


During various stints back home last spring, Oziera won both an L3 and L4 in the 16 and under division. She also reached the finals of the New England Junior Sectionals over the summer. 


And as for Ahmad’s dad, Oziee, he is still her number one supporter. And it’s because of his upbringing and support throughout her childhood that Ahmad is able to thrive in her new environment.  


“There are definitely times when I do miss him, but also times when I’m happy I’m away where I can be free to be myself,” Ahmad said. “I think because of all the experiences I’ve had, it’s much easier for me to be on my own and I really enjoy it now.”


Skip Advertisement


Related Articles

  • Annual Award Winners Graphic with Trophy.
    2023 Award Winners
    September 26, 2023
    The New England tennis community is rich with volunteers, difference-makers and lovers of the game willing to go above and beyond to grow and improve tennis at the local level. In 2023, seven special people and organizations will be honored and presented their awards at a ceremony at New England Tennis Weekend on November 4 in Natick, MA. Read More
  • Sylvia Swartz and Danne Woo are August Captains of the Month.
    Top August Captains
    September 22, 2023
    Congratulations to our August USTA League Captains of the Month, Sylvia Swartz and Danne Woo! Both Sylvia and Danne have led their teams to Nationals this year and will be representing New England in Arizona. Read More
  • New England 2023 winners of the NJTL Essay Contest.
    2023 NJTL Essay Winners
    September 14, 2023
    USTA New England recently selected eight students as 2023 National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) Essay Contest winners. Run annually by the USTA Foundation and presented by Deloitte, this contest is open to NJTL students nationwide, including those a part of New England’s 17 local chapters. Read More