Aces in Motion develops area tennis talent


Young tennis players in the Aces In Motion tennis program finished in second place in the Junior Novice division at the United States Tennis Association Florida Team Tennis Challenge held last weekend at the Jonesville Tennis Center. From left are Keonna Perry, Demitrius Henry, Wesley Hall, D’Amani Ward and coach Addison Staples.

Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 5:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 5:05 p.m.

Thanks to the Aces In Motion tennis program, whose mission is to provide enrichment services for young people in east Gainesville and throughout the Gainesville area, Keonna Perry has her sights set on earning a tennis scholarship to college.

Perry, a seventh-grader at Howard Bishop Middle School, said she is in her third year participating in the Aces In Motion tennis program. It has exposed her to different parts of the Gainesville community she might not have otherwise been exposed to, she said, while also increasing her knowledge and love for the sport.

“I like the feeling I get when I hit the ball, and I have met a lot of new people since I have been playing tennis,” said Keonna, the daughter of Donna and Reginald Perry of northeast Gainesville. “Tennis is a different kind of sport, and I have fallen in love with it.”

Keonna, along with Demetrius Brown, Wesley Hill and D’Amani Ward finished in second place out of five regional teams in the Junior Novice division at the United States Tennis Association Florida Team Tennis Challenge held last weekend at the Jonesville Tennis Center. Keonna also won a $250 scholarship sponsored by the Youth Tennis Foundation of Florida because she wrote an outstanding essay at the event about why tennis is important to her.

Aces In Motion is sponsored by the Gainesville Area Community Tennis Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes tennis in Alachua County. Some of its school partners are Idylwild, Lake Forest, Metcalf and Rawlings elementary schools, Howard Bishop and Lincoln middle schools and 21st Century Community Learning Centers in Alachua County, whose mission is to provide after school enrichment programs at schools that have high poverty and low performing student populations.

Anne Koterba, vice president of GACTA, said GACTA began its middle school tennis program in Alachua County in 2011, and since then, has been working hard to promote tennis at schools in east Gainesville. Koterba said besides working with elementary and middle schools in east Gainesville, Aces In Motion has established partnerships with the Eastside Advocacy Group for Youth and Reichert House Youth Academy after school programs. Practice sessions are held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the tennis courts at the T.B. McPherson Recreation Center in southeast Gainesville under the direction of Addison Staples, executive director of GACTA, Chris McDonald, a former University of Florida tennis player who is currently a tennis professional, and other members of GACTA.

Addison, who played collegiate tennis at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C., before teaching tennis at country clubs and resorts, said the children in the program are very excited about being a part of the program.

“Their response to being introduced to tennis has been very awesome because I think they enjoy learning about something new,” Staples said. “Most of the kids, if not all of them, have a greater familiarity with basketball and football and the other major sports, more so than they do about tennis, but they have all embraced the sport with open arms.”

On a recent Friday afternoon under dreary skies, Staples and McDonald coached proper return techniques to elementary aged children as a tennis ball machine continuously shot balls out across the net at the McPherson center. The children listened to their instructions, and with what appeared to be hundreds of tennis balls scattered across the courts, Staples and McDonald said it wouldn’t take long for them to pack the balls up as the practice session came to a close.

Staples said a big part of the program is teaching the children about life skills such as teamwork, and he said picking the balls up after practice is not a hard chore because everybody pitches in to get the job done.

Koterba said the program also is beneficial to the community because it is making use of the tennis courts at the McPherson Center and Howard Bishop. She also said GACTA is making a strong case to the city of Gainesville to avert plans to demolish the tennis courts at a city park on NE 31st Avenue behind Village and Forest Green apartments.

“We are trying to promote tennis in all of Gainesvlle, but especially in east Gainesville, and the more tennis courts that are available, the better,” Koterba said.

For more information, call 352-514-9975 or visit www.acesinmotion.org.

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