By Lilly Howard
The Junior Tennis Championship Center (JTCC) hosted a free tennis festival and costume party that drew an enthusiastic crowd to the Oct. 29 event. The courts were filled with coaches, players and kids in costumes. The event wrapped with a raffle that featured something for everyone — Jersey Mike’s coupons, cool mugs and Tori Sport clothing, JTCC swag, and framed photos of notable alumni Robin Montgomery and Frances Tiafoe.
The event brought in newcomers and long-time fans alike. 14-year-old Tamara Fritz comes to JTCC twice a week to play tennis. She said “the energy I get from it lets me be who I am. I love the way the coaches teach exercises.” Fritz aspires to be a tennis coach and might even set her sights on working at JTCC.
John Niswander, JTCC’s marketing and events associate, grew up training at JTCC and went on to be their marketing intern and a summer coach before becoming a full-time staff member. Having seen every side of JTCC, Niswander appreciates his unique perspective. “This place has been home for me since I was six years old,” he said.
Niswander noted that some students training at JTCC hope to play professionally or on a Division 1 team. A number of them are taking online classes at Laurel Springs School, which gives them the flexibility to travel for matches while still completing high school.
At the event, coach James Carr noticed a boy standing on the sidelines; it was his first time at JTCC. Carr, who works with the high performance players and came to JTCC from Arizona, invited the boy to join in exercises. Carr has been playing tennis for 22 years.
Coach Iosua Malaki has been playing tennis since childhood and started working at JTCC in spring 2022. He enjoys interacting with a diverse group of people. Malaki added that he likes that JTCC gives back with their scholarships, noting that he started his tennis career thanks to a scholarship. JTCC has an outreach program where they introduce kids to tennis and offer them scholarships so they can continue to play.
At the event, Malaki gathered little costumed kids into a huddle and asked “What does a teammate mean to you?”
The children’s responses varied: “good sportsmanship,” “trying not to do what they can’t,” “supporting each other when we aren’t winning,” “don’t give up,” and “working together,” they said.
Coach Thomas Stanford talked about the rewards of working with his students. “The most exciting thing is to teach and see how they have fun and watch them learn,” he said.
Brad Evans said loves JTCC because of “the events like this and everyone who works here is very nice.” Evans has been playing tennis for 25 years and came to JTCC for their adaptive tennis program. The center has been hosting wheelchair tennis clinics in partnership with MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital since 2018.
The costumes, smiles, and energy that filled the tennis courts at the event are a direct statement about our community of people who are passionate about tennis and teamwork, a community that invites anyone and everyone to pick up a racket and join in.