The Lee County Community Tennis Association (LCCTA), an organization promoting affordable tennis in Lee County since the mid-90s, held the Local Fall Festival (Level 7) for juniors up to 16 and under this past weekend. I motored down to the Barbara Manzo Tennis Center at Three Oaks Park, one of Lee County’s premier tennis facilities, to take a gander at some of the up and coming juniors in the area.
|Alex Bernard- Boys' 12|
|JB Bernard-Boys' 12 Champion|
I left the facility, both days, shaking my head, marveling at the high tennis IQ and skill levels I witnessed in some of the kids who would barely reach my waist if they stood next to me! I’m thinking specifically of little Alexander Bernard, who ended up winning the Boys’ 12s Consolation. Of course, big brother JB Bernard, who won the Boys’ 12 Singles Main Draw, isn’t any slouch either! There are some really good coaches out there.
|Ethan Littlestone- Boys' 14 Semifinalist|
Perhaps even more importantly, and I’m hoping it wasn’t because I didn’t spend much time there, I didn’t see a single racquet thrown, didn’t hear a single curse of frustration, and I even saw one player, Ethan Littlestone, smiling throughout the time I watched him play, despite losing the match 6-2, 6-2.
|Reynold Greenlaw- Boys' 12|
Several of the juniors I watched this past weekend had visible talent and sound technique, all played hard and, for the time that I observed, displayed the kind of sportsmanship I would expect from a player I had taught. It was impossible to tell simply from the level of effort by the players, which were consolation and which were main draw matches. Hmmm, apparently there are some good parents out there as well!
|Tourney Director Lyn Bruner |
As many kudos as the coaches, parents and players deserve, the volunteers that make it possible for the kids to display and test their skills, for the parents to experience the joy and pain of watching their kids perform, and for coaches to assess their players’ progress are worthy of at least as much, for they have little to gain.
|Harriet Bohannon & Ron Treaseh|
Volunteers such as Harriet Bohannon, Ron Treaseh, and former volunteer, now LCCTA Executive Director and Tournament Director, Lyn Bruner (read more about Lyn here), all deserve the community’s gratitude for all they do to make all things tennis happen in Lee County, including the Fall Festival.
|Rover Jim Dostie & Referee Ellie Madigan|
I can’t forget another group of folks, who are certainly deserving of kudos. I’m referring to the tournament officials, who stroll the courts, who brave the heat, ensuring that things move along according to protocol. They don’t do it for the pay, or they would choose a different line of work. They do it because they love the game and the kids who play it.
|Ian Ziegler- Boys 14s Champion|
Reflecting on the weekend, I was particularly gratified to watch Ian Ziegler, a young man whom, at age 8, I could tell had goo-gobs of talent, come into his own under the recent tutelage of Leo Montano of Tennis Performance International.
|Luka Ilic- Boys' 14 Finalist|
Seeded third, Ian was able to stay focused for four matches over the weekend, winning at least one 6-0-set in his first three matches, and then upsetting No.1 Seed Luka Ilic in the final 6-3, 6-1.
|Paris Thompson- Girls' 12|
|Nikki Perrino- Girls' 12|
It was also a pleasure to watch Paris Thompson recover from a disappointing main draw loss to win the Girls’ 12 Consolation. Paris had to win two matches in third-set super-tiebreaks to win the Consolation, including a tough one in the final against a game Nikki Perrino, 6-4, 2-6, 1-0(5). After speaking to Paris' mom, Holly Thompson, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Paris winning some main draws before long.
|Jeff Diggs & Manuel Encalada|
Seeing some of my fellow USPTA pros on site, monitoring the progress of their young charges was another take-away from the event. I’ve always considered it a sign of dedication and professionalism when a coach takes the time to go out on the weekend to an event to support a player he/she works with, often on a daily basis.
|Jeff & Son Josh Diggs after match|
The only disappointment was the number of players in some of the draws. I know that we have considerably more talented junior players in the area than the draws indicated, and it was sad to note the absence of so many. In an economy where travel costs can be prohibitive, having an event such as the Fall Festival right in our own backyard is really a boon.
|The Littlestones & Coach Dave|
Perhaps some don’t realize that USTA Florida considers potential participation when awarding sanctions for events. There were 55 participants at the Fall Festival, and I know that our area can easily double that. Hopefully when the sanctioned LCCTA events return in 2012, we will fill the courts with exuberant juniors!