October 19th, 2017
Florida Alachua/Marion Blog: Tennis Builds Family; More
By Leigh Chak, USTA Florida Local League Coordinator
Alachua, Marion County Tennis: We are Family
Talk to a tennis player and they will tell you all about their tennis family. They are fiercely loyal to their clubs and their teams as they usually contain their closest friends. Tennis is the bond that holds us all together and sometimes when we are really lucky or really persuasive we get to combine our tennis family and our everyday family.
In Alachua County we have the Wrights that are working on their 4th generation of players. Scott, Rick, Daniel and Erin not only play tennis but find that captaining USTA League teams helps grow their circle of friends. Their favorite season is the mixed leagues when the whole family can be on the same team together. The little cutie with the great outfit is their daughter Audrey and they are planning on adding her to the team one day.
Vinata Vedam had always wanted to play tennis but as a child in India she never got the opportunity. When her husband Volker started playing she saw her chance and took it. Now they have convinced their children Varija and Viktor to join them and they all love to spend time on the court together. They also enjoy going to professional tournaments as well.
Heather Randolph introduced her wife Diane to tennis when they met more than five years ago and they recently had the chance to compete on a team together at a USTA Florida Sectionals tournament in Orlando. They use their time on the court as communication training for their marriage and plan on joining many more teams together.
In Ocala we have lots of families playing as well.
Susan and Ellie Atwell are a mother and daughter that have found a deeper bond through tennis. Ellie took a little convincing to play USTA League but now she has a whole team full of “tennis moms” that all love her.
Ellie and Susan just competed in the 18 & Over 3.0 Sectionals tournament and were undefeated for the whole season. Their tennis/everyday family keeps expanding as Susan’s brother Chris and Ellie’s boyfriend Weston joined the same mixed doubles team with them this summer.
Field and Sally Bromund look like brother and sister but are actually mother and son. They both started playing around the same time about four years ago with him playing for his high school and her playing leagues. His senior year she asked him to join her on an adult team and they got to go to the USTA Florida Mixed Sectionals and had a wonderful weekend together. They now have a sport to share for the rest of their lives.
Joel Raney, Kaylee Raney and Sam Chak are cousins that just came back to tennis. All have graduated from college and are working hard in their careers. They decided to join a team together and are having a wonderful time. Sam drives 1-1/2 hours to play with Joel and Kaylee. It lets them reconnect and spend quality time together as well as keeping fit. They all played Junior Team Tennis together 15 years ago and love getting the chance to be on the same team again as adults.
One of the best parts of being in a family is spending quality time with people you love. That is the same for people in your “tennis family” and your everyday family. Tennis brings people closer and gives them a wonderful way to connect and communicate. When we are out there playing and competing, remember to reach out and make it “All in the Family.”
Alachua County’s Mandarin Tennis Connection
There is a revolution going on in Alachua County. Using language as a bond, tennis players Liang Zhong (3rd from right in yellow) and Weijun Chen (1st on left) are determined to make tennis more popular in the Chinese community.
Their Chinese school hired local pro Chris McDonald to run adult and children’s clinics as part of their curriculum. Weijun organizes round robin play for their adult community with about 40 participants in their last series of round robins, which they plan to start again soon.
Liang just partnered with Dave Porter at Jonesville Tennis Center to start parent/child classes starting in December. Liang’s vision is to create Mandarin-speaking tennis teams, and she has already put together a Combo 18 & Over 6.5 team for the upcoming season, and is working on more players for the future. She is creating teams that share a common language outside the norm.
Calling for a poach in doubles won’t have to be done in a whisper. She sees a future where Chinese families choose to play tennis instead of a weekend card game — a community that chooses USTA Leagues and competition to connect and stay healthy as they challenge themselves. Using the Mandarin connection, Liang sees Gainesville’s Chinese community playing tennis together for a very long time.
In the video Chen says, “Tennis is a fun sport. Not only doing exercise, but also making friends. Plus, some fun competitions. Tennis is also good for everyone, old or young. I encourage everyone to join us at court and have fun!”
USTA League Captains are the Heart of Leagues
Calling all captains! In 2016, Region 2-Alachua/Marion had 4,475 player registrations spread over more than 240 teams. Each team had a captain to manage the players and organize the matches. If there are no captains, there are no teams, and without teams there are no leagues.
What motivates someone to become a captain? What makes someone a good captain? These were some of the questions I asked Marion County’s newest captain, Margarita Posada, and one of Alachua County’s most experienced captains, Gabriel Ghita.
Margarita met Venus Williams on a promotional tour and was inspired to try tennis. She has now been playing for seven months and is truly hooked on the mental and physical aspects of the game. She is going into captaining thinking of it as a challenge for a new player to captain a team of more experienced people. She wants to rise to the occasion and motivate her team to succeed, even if they don’t win.
Margarita hopes that a good captain is a communicator with good listening skills and the ability to accept both advice and criticism. She knows that if that is the criteria she has the makings of a great captain. She is excited to find out.
On the other end of the scale is Gabriel Ghita. Twelve years ago, Gabriel moved from ping pong to tennis because of a friend’s challenge and it was love at first match. He is very competitive and quickly joined his first USTA League team. It didn’t take long to realize that as a competitive person he could influence the dynamic of his team by being captain.
Through his own work ethic of lessons, clinics and practice he could encourage his teammates to continue to improve with him. Through the years he has developed long-standing friendships he would miss if he didn’t captain. His players also learned that he is a “softie,” and would agree to captain even if he wasn’t playing, just to help a team.
He believes a good captain respects his players, works hard to put them in a position to win, and is always fair, even when they are trying to win. He says that if your players trust you they will respect your decisions. He puts his heart in his teams because what he gets back is an extended family.
As Margarita starts her journey as a new captain she can look to the veterans for advice. Be sure to be fair, treat her players with respect, put her heart into her teams and in return she will receive a lifetime of friendships.