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Club in Anderson Builds From the Ground Up

September 20, 2013 09:37 AM
By Mario Cuadros
2.5With today’s emphasis on a healthy lifestyle, people are looking for activities in which they can exercise while having fun. They are looking for something that can help take their mind off their already busy schedule and allow them to socialize.
These were the feelings for Jessica Heller when she decided to pick up a tennis racquet for the first time eight months ago.
"It’s a social sport and it’s something that is relatively easy," she said. "You pick up a racquet and learn and it’s just a way to be active and have fun at the same time."
Jessica is the captain for the 18 & Over 2.5 Mixed Doubles team that recently won at the USTA South Carolina Mixed Doubles State Championships and are now eligible to compete in the USTA Southern Section Championships in October. The team is composed of players that have playing experience ranging from two months to a year and a half.
The person that brought this group together is Sophie Woorons-Johnston, the head tennis pro at Brookstone Meadows Tennis Club in Anderson, SC.
"Sophie brought us all in as brand new players," said Jessica. "She offered clinics, and private lessons, and cardio tennis and she has us all out there with really good pros. We’re all out there at least three or four times a week, if not more, taking lessons and participating in the clinics."
As a former professional tennis player, Sophie knows what it takes to be a high level tennis player and athlete. She has been able to take that intensive training and transmit it to beginner tennis players, allowing them to improve while still enjoying the game.
"The 2.5’s are very intimidated at the beginning," she said. "They never think that they’re ready to go so it’s a matter of encouraging them and getting them prepared."
She understands that some people may feel out of their comfort zone when they are trying something new. This is even more apparent when the people that are taking up tennis for the first time are experienced professionals and not children.
"Some of these people are well known in their professional field and they feel confident doing what they do," she said. "Now you’re taking them out of their comfort zone and they are doing things that are totally unknown to them. It’s a big step and it takes a lot of confidence. From a coach’s stand point, it’s really going step-by-step so that when they step on the court they don’t feel like they’re a fish out of water."
Having players of different levels at the same club not only promotes competition, but it helps the facility maintain stability. Newcomers also bring excitement to the game and help the club grow from the bottom up. "It gives them a lot pride being part of a team and being part of a club," she said.
"The people that are already here sometimes say ‘I wish my wife would play’ or ‘I wish my husband would play’," she said. "So we talk to the spouses and to the rest of the family to try to get them involved. A lot of them want their family and friends to be involved."
She is certainly doing something right with beginners, as she had a champion and a runner-up in the 2.5 Mixed Doubles State Championships. This is an opportunity for beginners to put into practice everything they have learned, allowing them to immerse themselves even deeper into the sport.
These experiences certainly allow players to get a taste of what competition is like. For Jessica and her team, the most enjoyable part of the whole tournament was winning.
"I would say that was really good," she said. "I think we all enjoyed being able to be competitive as adults. So many adults think that sports are kind of cut off when you’re not a kid anymore. I think we all enjoyed the competition aspect of it."