History

 

Inside Tennis Magazine - Northern California

July/August 2014

Pg. 39

Determination and Partnerships Create Tennis

Once considered a desert of tennis opportunities for its residents, Richmond now has a thriving tennis community for all ages and abilities – and this amazing growth has only happened in the past few years.

The change began with one couple’s move to the area, but flourished due to a strong partnership of organizations dedicated to not only tennis, but the lifelong benefits that the sport brings to the residents of their city.

The Beginning

After retirement, Garry Hurlbut and his wife Maryn moved to the Point Richmond area, just up the highway from their old stomping grounds in Oakland. They wanted to continue the active tennis lifestyle that they had been a part of in Oakland, so they look for options in their new hometown.

What they found was the 22 tennis courts throughout Richmond were in deplorable shape. And, the only active organized tennis activity was a youth program run by Barbara Lewis and Courtney Coleman through the Richmond Recreation Department. It was a successful, well-run program but it didn’t come close to providing tennis opportunities to all Richmond residents.

The two decided to take action to help get the community more involved in the sport and to do what they could to get the courts in shape.

Enter the Richmond Recreation Department.

Back in 2010 Garry joined the city’s Recreation Department as a volunteer and led the effort to pilot an adult tennis class. The pilot program was so successful that regular adult tennis instruction classes became a permanent part of the Recreation Department curriculum the following season.

Garry credits a lot of the success of the growth of tennis in the Recreation Department to Tetteh Kisseh, the recreation program coordinator. “He has such a great energy and was really open to the possibilities that tennis could provide to make their programming more robust.”

In the meantime, a committee – ‘Rejuvenate Richmond Tennis’ – was created by Maryn to refurbish tennis courts in Richmond.

The committee officially became the Richmond Tennis Association (RTA) housed under Richmond Friends of Recreation, who serves as a 501 (c)3) non-profit fiscal agent for RTA.

It didn’t take long before the Richmond Police Athletic League (RPAL) and USTA Northern California were on board as well.

“I have met many organizers in our section, but Larry Lewis, Jerry Anderson an Mark Torres with RPAL are folks that leave a lasting impression,” said Cherryl Silva, the USTA NorCal tennis service representative for the area that Richmond fall under. “I feel privileged to work with them to make a difference in a child’s life.”

With the coordination of all groups and some personal donations, the group presented a plan to the Richmond City Council to resurface four Nicholl Park courts and one court at the Richmond Natatorium. The proposal was approved and the five courts were resurfaced in 2012. In 2013, the outreach continued with six more courts being resurfaced in neighborhoods throughout Richmond.

With the courts on their way to future glory, Garry started a men’s combo team in 2012 as there were no USTA league teams in Richmond at the time. Residents had been traveling out of the city to play on courts in neighboring towns, on other leagues. That one team quickly multiplied to 13 (men’s, women’s, mixed and combo) in 2014.

It wasn’t just the adults that benefited from the tennis movement happening in Richmond. Today, several Family and Adult Play Days take place around the city and the H.I.T.S. program for kids 10 and under is being introduced this summer in partnership with RPAL and the Recreation Department where they are expecting 250 kids to participate. H.I.T.S. is a 6-8 week tennis/life skills program that introduces the fundamentals of tennis, and also focuses on a curriculum to enhance a growing child’s core values.

They also hold recreational tennis socials one Friday a month to attract more players to the game in a more relaxed setting.

And, while tennis programs are growing in Richmond, the job isn’t done yet. To accommodate the increased tennis activity, there are courts that still need to be fixed.

RTA has committed to provide matching funds with Richmond City Council to resurrect two more courts at Nicholl Park and one more at the Natatorium. They are hoping to have the project completed by the end of 2014.

It was the strong partnerships among the organizations, the determination and hard work of the people involved, and the love of the sport that turned this city into the flourishing tennis community it is today.