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Kids Coaching Kids: TOC Aces Give Back

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By Liz McCollum

The USTA Tennis On Campus program features more than 35,000 college students competing across the United States in intramural and intercollegiate co-ed club play. In addition to competing with their club team, many of these athletes are inspired to teach the younger generation the game that they love so much.

Sarah Newman of Gonzaga University and Stefan Hartmann of the University of Central Florida (UCF) – competing at the 2015 Tennis On Campus National Championships in Cary, N.C., April 9-11 – are two such athletes.

Newman of Gonzaga and her teammates are active in USTA Pacific Northwest’s Tennis Afterschool Zone (TAZ) program. TAZ is a quality, affordable after school tennis program sponsored by USTA/PNW in partnership with local parent teacher groups and school districts. TAZ gets kids active and learning a sport in a fun and friendly setting.

“A lot of the kids have never played before,” said Newman. “It’s teaching them how to hold a racket, what the net is, what the court lines are.”

Newman worked for the USTA/PNW’s Tennis Service Representative Karen Green over the summer and getting the Gonzaga Club Tennis Team in TAZ seemed like a perfect collaboration.  Twice a week, four or five club members teach the basics of tennis to third, fourth and fifth graders using Youth Tennis foam balls, smaller racquets and modified nets on smaller courts.  

“I had built-in volunteers,” said Newman of her Club Tennis teammates. “I encouraged them to do it, but they really love it, so it worked out nicely.”

Volunteering their time off the court has proved rewarding to the entire club.  

“I love seeing the passion in the kids grow,” said Newman. “It’s something we are so passionate about and we play it and love it. To be able to share that with kids at a young age and watch them develop is really awesome.”

Similarly, Hartmann of the UCF Knights’ Club Tennis team dedicates many hours to teaching the game of tennis as head coach of the Trinity Preparatory Academy in Winter Park, Fla.  

Hartmann grew up in Europe and came to the U.S. in 2008 for education. Inspired by his childhood coaches, he has compiled quite the coaching career for a student: Hartmann has taught kids and seniors on public courts in Melbourne Beach, Fla., was coach at Melbourne High School for two years. Today, Hartmann is enjoying his first year at Trinity Prep.  

“I love coaching and I love being with Trinity Prep because it gives me the ability to coach while I am still in school,” said Hartmann. “It’s a big time commitment, but I love doing it.”

It seems to be paying off. The girls’ team won their District Championship and the boys’ team was runner up just a few weeks ago.

“I like seeing kids improve,” said Hartmann. “Kids go out on the court and tennis frustrates them because it is so complicated. The ball moves so fast. I teach them step by step. I like starting out with the under eight year olds because you see the fastest improvement. I also like working with high school students because of the different type of coaching. At high school, it is a great atmosphere.”

While coaching is a passion for Hartmann, he remains involved in the Tennis On Campus program at UCF because he loves the competition.  

“I’ve always been a competitor primarily,” he said. “I have a drive for me to improve myself.  When I improve, I can then help my students.”  

When asked if he coaches his teammates on the UCF Club tennis team, Hartmann joked: “They don’t let me.”