CLEVELAND — To win in tennis, you have to know how to lose. Just as in life, not every shot will go your way. But when the next one does come, you have to be ready.
“Me? I wasn't a very patient person. I've learned to wait for things, to work harder for things, and tennis has helped me become more patient, and disciplined in those areas.,” said Carter Harris of the valuable lesson he learned since starting summer camp at the age of 9 and picking up a racquet for the very first time. The camp is Advantage Cleveland Tennis and Education.
“We provide a free summer program for 8 weeks, ages 6 to 16 here in the Hough neighborhood, at Thurgood Marshall recreation center,” said Liz Deegan who came on board as Executive Director 3 years ago.
There is a lot of action on the courts when we visited, but don’t be fooled. Tennis is “the hook” as Deegan explains. There are actually 6 components to the program that also include literacy, STEM, fitness, social and emotional wellness.
“We are looking at the whole student, making sure that they have everything they need to be successful on and off the court and in the classroom,” Deegan added.
AdvantageCLE not only provides a free summer camp to children in the Cleveland area, the main goal is to provide tennis and learning programs to children in Cleveland, preventing the summer learning slide, and enhancing the students' educational experience year-round.
Carter instantly took off with tennis, but the sport is not for everyone, and that’s okay. There’s room for them to soar learning things like coding and robotics.
“And it’s just triggering their natural curiosity that they have around math and science,” said Me’lani Labat Joseph, who is with the Leonard Gelfand STEM Center at CWRU and serves on the AdvantageCLE board.
There is also a literacy component, which Harris says helped turn his academics around and set him up for success in high school. It is also a passion of former camper, turned camp counselor Kelli Price, who immediately took to poetry.
“We have a poetry slam every year that the students look forward to. All the students come and we dance and we encourage each other. It’s really a beautiful sight to see,” said Kelli, who envisions a future working for a non-profit, thanks to her involvement with the camp.
Advantage Cleveland is a non-profit organization, funded by national and regional tennis associations, as well as corporate and private donors, here in Northeast Ohio.
“They want to see that you are not only producing college tennis players, but that you are also educating young people. And we are climbing up on the standardized testing and everything like that,” said Todd Wojktowski, who is the Head Coach of Men’s Tennis at CWRU and also a member of the AdvantageCLE board. Wojktowski helps get players like Carter into high performance clinics, to continue their development.
Tennis did change Carter’s life. He’s majoring in computer science at Morehouse College and playing on the tennis team. He hopes others will take a shot at the opportunity too.
“Just give it a try at least, you never know if you will like it. It was the same way I thought tennis camp was going to be boring, but I loved it,” said Carter.
In August - professional tennis is coming to Cleveland!
Tennis in the Land will take place in the flats - and feature some of the top women's players in the world!
Kids from Advantage Cleveland Tennis serving as ball girls and ball boys, with a portion of proceeds going to the organization.
You can learn more about Tennis In The Land and how to purchase tickets HERE.
*Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from a previous report.