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San Angelo Lifestyles

Match of a Lifetime

Written by Sabrina Forse  |  Photos provided by Concho Valley Tennis Associations

A local tennis pro is fostering a love of the game for the Concho Valley youth



 

Love-Love is the starting score for a tennis match, equating to zero-zero. And by the end of his first game, Jared Urbantke had fallen in love with tennis. "I didn't know anything about tennis when I was tossed onto a court in seventh grade. I had played basketball, football and baseball so my athleticism took over, " said Jared. "Tennis really piqued my interest knowing that I could learn and compete." The Water Valley native started taking lessons and was active in tournament play throughout high school. He went from taking lessons to now teaching them and is the Tennis Pro for the Concho Valley Tennis Association.


The non-profit organization strives to offer affordable tennis lessons to children and adults. In addition, CVTA plans tennis tournaments for all ages. "Our goal is to try and give all the youth an opportunity to play tennis. We have clinics where they can learn and we offer equipment to try, to make sure they enjoy playing before they buy," said Stacey Duffell, CVTA President. "This past year, we were able to bring on a tennis pro [Urbantke] to stabilize our program.” Urbantke leads CVTA clinics where players can learn tennis education, such as rules, and build their skillset. "We host clinicals for beginner, intermediate, and advanced players. As they advance, there is more opportunity for competition play, " said Urbantke. "I really encourage my students to practice on their own, outside of lessons and clinics. I tell them to find a friend to play or practice serving, hitting against a wall." 

 

CVTA is currently focused on growing its youth program, which is offered to players ages six to eighteen. At age 6, Jack Orr is one of Urbantke's youngest players. He actually started taking lessons with Urbantke at the age of four. "With Jack starting so young we weren't sure how he would do, but Jared had a lot of patience. We started with two 30-minute lessons to keep Jack's focus. Now, he's taking hour long lessons, " says Jack's mother, Renee Orr." Jared has a way of quizzing Jack to make sure he's retaining the information he's learning. We've seen such a big improvement with everything, especially his serves. He's so young though, that we don't want him to get burnt out and Jared really keeps it fun for him." Tennis is truly a family affair for the Orr family. "My husband plays tennis tournaments with the CVTA men's league. I started playing in junior high and took some lessons with Jared last summer to knock the rust off. Grandma is also playing now, too. We go out and hit the ball around as a family."


It's that love of the game that Urbantke hopes to instill in his players. "I've seen coaches that do a great job of motivating players and then I've seen coaches who do the exact opposite. I want to be the coach that leaves a lasting, positive impact and a lifetime love of the sport," said Urbantke. 

 

Whether it's simply for fun or of a more competitive nature, Urbantke believes that tennis serves up life lessons. "When you first start playing, you're going to make mistakes. It can be frustrating, but tennis teaches you to have discipline. Keep practicing and focus on learning one skill at a time," Urbantke stated. "I had a student that was frustrated because he had played a competitor three times and he had been defeated every single time. So we broke down the game-what did my player do well, what did his opponent do well. I went to his next tournaments and my player ended up playing exceptionally well and beat his opponent." As a coach, it's not always the win that is most satisfying. "It's a winning situation when you see a player build their confidence and realize they can overcome obstacles through hard work." For some, that obstacle may be paying for tennis lessons. "We started the Youth Expansion Program where we go into underprivileged areas and conduct free clinics. COVID-19 has slowed the growth of this particular program, but we hope to regain momentum in San Angelo this year. It's very rewarding to see kids pick up a racquet for the first time and realize they are capable of learning a new sport."

CVTA is designed so that tennis lovers of all ages and walks of life can continue to enjoy the sport for as long as they desire. "Tennis is truly for everyone. If you want to play solo, you can play singles. If you want to be in a group, play doubles. If you want to play for fun and socialize, you can do that. If you want to compete, play in tournaments," said Urbantke "One of the most outstanding aspects of tennis is that it's a lifetime sport, you can truly play at any age." †



To learn more about CVTA, its programs and tournaments, visit www.conchovalleytennis.net.
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