Leaders of the Month

Advantage Kids behind-the-scenes stories of those who make it happen.

Dawn Dragon, co-Executive Director,

Makes it all happen

She doesn’t know we are doing this yet (shhhh!) but we thought it was about time we honored the Captain Herself! Dawn Dragon, co-Executive Director, is the one who gets it done.

Leadership is the ability to inspire people to be better, to do better. Leaders encourage, they see people’s strengths, and they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. If you know Dawn, you know this is her!

From executing the nitty-gritty details of covid programming to encouraging coaches, from carting around boxes of equipment to arranging travel plans, she is the one running the show. She keeps impeccable financial records, makes sure everyone is paid, has what they need, and knows where to be. She remembers everyone’s name and their life story, and she absolutely loves what she does.

Dawn knows she’s not an island, and she is the glue that holds this team together. She is bright, cheerful, intelligent, and probably the most charismatic person you’ll ever meet. Eager always to grow and change, she invites feedback and then integrates it into her leadership role. 

We’d love to list everything Dawn has done to make this the most successful Advantage Kids year to date, but we just don’t have space. Suffice it to say that everything we’ve done is thanks to her direction, support, and encouragement. Everything

We love you, Dawn! (and your adorable pup, Lucy)

Coach Susan Connolly,

the best ever.

Pictured here with a custom made trophy given to her by Advantage Kids participants Leila and Daniel, Coach Sue is being recognized as the “BEST Coach” . . . and we agree!

Susan is what we in tennis call a “lifer.” Not only is she an avid 65+ tennis player herself, she is also an enthusiastic and supportive Advantage Kids coach in Meredith and Moultonborough. Currently, during the autumn months, she is driving four hours round trip to coach on Monday and Tuesday nights. That’s commitment.

In addition to being the best coach ever, Susan sits on the Advantage Kids board of directors and advises our John Donovan Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund for advanced beginner and intermediate lessons for children who wish to continue improving their tennis game even after their Tennis PLUS intro experience.

She never misses an event. She never misses a meeting. All quarantine and all summer, she never missed a deadline to create tennis-at-home videos for our virtual Tennis PLUS facebook group. She is the most reliable, loving, surefooted woman – and we are grateful to have her.

Thanks, Coach Sue, for being the BEST!

Today Baker,

a Yogi with heart.

Today Baker was the yoga instructor for most of the Lakes Region Tennis PLUS (yoga + meditation) program this summer. She took voracious notes on the kids because she was deeply impressed and moved by the program – she is a steward of Advantage Kids for life, now. Here’s just some of what she had to say about her experience this season:

“I can not say enough good about this phenomenal program (Advantage Kids) and the two incredible women who head everything from operations & the organization (of many sites!) to enriching content and execution. They lead from their heart! The Tennis Coaches care personally and see the potential in each participant! They provided direction and encouragement, taught skills and healthy competition! I miss my yogi’s immensely – having the honor of sharing time this summer, teaching yoga and witnessing each of them progress not in only poses, but in their level of esteem, confidence, courage and trust…. The insight, the curiosity, the willingness to try something new, to come in feeling shy and be willing to do story telling half way through the programs… truly moving & brings tears to my eyes just thinking about them! Community was created within each group and each child has grown individually! Beautiful to witness!”
She taught sixteen yoga and meditation sessions each week, sharing photos and stories after each one. Then, at the end of season donor and board appreciation party, Today even stood up and spoke, with tears in her eyes, about how wonderful this experience has been. We love you, Today!!

Coach Grant Workman,

is a Rising Leader

Grant has risen to the challenge to lead!  At 20 years old, the first day of the summer season last year he unexpectedly needed to step up to the plate. And he did….without hesitation.  He has developed into a strong, enthusiastic leader who is loved by his Advantage Kids. He has adapted programming for covid safety guidelines and Tennis-at-home challenges.  He developed an Advantage Kids’ curriculum guidebook with content from the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA), Net Generation, and area instructors with decades of experience. 

But the BEST PART is how much the kids LOVE him!  Take a look at a parent testimonial from 2019:

As parents of a child who has been the beneficiary of the Advantage Kids Tennis Program for four (4) years, we would like to thank you for the exceptional 2019 summer tennis program.Your leadership brought fresh ideas and new enthusiasm to the program, coaches and kids.This year we experienced major changes from the previous years in the entire tennis teaching process.

Every kid was 100% engaged in the tennis lessons, we observed major improvement in performance and attitude.

Your selection of coaches was also inspired. The lessons of the coaches, with special emphasis on Grant Workman’s state-of-the-art lessons were highly engaging and well-prepared. The tennis courts were fully used, in an organized manner, to focus on group and individual learning as needed.

Sessions were well-planned, taking full advantage of the time. Adequate equipment (rackets, balls) and bottled water was provided for every kid.

Homework was also exemplary, covering a wide range of topics from tennis to math and presented to every kid in a nice folder.

The staff was always on time, one hour before the tennis lessons started, preparing the courts and setting up the equipment for tennis training and complementary physical exercises.

This year, for the first time our son is missing the Advantage Kids tennis program already, for this reason we would like to have this program all year long and we would inquire with the Superintendent of the Laconia Schools exploring options in this direction.

Thank YOU,
Parents of AK Participant

Advantage Kids couldn’t be happier to have Grant as a leader on our team.  He will definitely be instrumental in bringing tennis back to NH a million fold!

Volunteer Rebecca Killinger

April Leader of the Month, is extraordinary.

It is not too often we see a volunteer with a commitment to growing tennis with the amount of compassion as we have seen with Rebecca Killinger.  Becky serves on the board for Advantage Kids and has been a loyal and dedicated volunteer in not only our summer programs and Boys and Girls Club but has taken the lead in the very successful High School Preseason Jamboree year after year.  Her letter shows her love of tennis and the kids. Thank you Rebecca!

Letter from Rebecca

The 3rd Annual U18 High School Preseason Jamboree was the biggest ever having a record turnout! Advantage Kids has held this coed singles tennis tournament in Concord for the last three winters.  As a passionate volunteer, we were so excited to see the incredible growth in the event this year. Starting with under 20 players, and reaching full capacity for a 1-day tourney is so encouraging.  More towns in NH have been involved each Jamboree!

A huge thank you to all the volunteers who stepped up to help run this wonderful community event.  Dave Page/Concord High Boys Coach has directed the charge each year, and we could never run it as smoothly as he does.  We had “roamers” on court, check-in help, a raffle coordinator, etc., people who just LOVE tennis, all donating their time.

We witnessed a very competitive Boys draw, with a superb final between Merrimack/Cameron Wilson and Coe-Brown/Samuel Dupuis. Cameron won 6-2, but it sure seemed closer than the score indicated. Winner of the Boys Consolation round was Gilford/Bradley McIntire over Bow/Dustin Wells.  We focus a lot on having great sportsmanship and awarded Oyster River/Ben Montgomery with this, as we watched him play and finish with an injury.  

We were so pleased to see two Laconia players register, who have participated in our Free Summer Tennis program (one for years). That’s what this is all about.  It was their first ever tourney. Congrats Sullivan Mousseau and Joey Bailey!

On the girls side, Kearsarge/Addyson Stadler defeated Oyster River/Lavinia Palmer in a thrilling tie-breaker, coming from 2-5 down in the set.  Amazingly, Addyson’s black lab service dog joined her on court to help her with her diabetes. Such amazing drive, mental toughness and come-back! Lavinia is a powerhouse player and very skilled.  The growth I see in these returning players is truly why I love this age-group!  

Pembroke/Mary McCulloch took home the Girls Consolation prize, defeating Kennett/Kameryn Dockham.  Bedford/Paige Muir won the award for “Sportmanship”, as her attitude was exemplary each match (on and off the court).  

We, of course, want to thank the Health Club of Concord for always welcoming us and clearing their court schedule for Advantage Kids.  We even have Francis, the Manager, playing tennis now!! Gotta love this game…

Please spread the word for next year!  

Thank you,
Rebecca Killinger/Concord
Advantage Kids

Coach Scott McDougald

Youth Tennis Coach Nashua

March Leader of the Month, is all love, all the time.

“This program is the most rewarding program with tennis that I have ever been involved with in my 27 years of coaching and teaching,” Coach Scott McDougald says – often – about his experience with the Advantage Kids youth in Nashua.

He has taken coaching off the court in such meaningful ways we can’t even begin to call him the leader of the month. He’s the leader of our hearts. 

This past month, he implemented a Team Player of the Month award, and even had a plaque made up with twelve empty spaces for kids’ names to be engraved “So they can see they all have potential to be the best, in time.” He didn’t choose the winner, either! He had the kids write down who they thought deserved the award.

When Brittany and Dawn were away in Dallas, Scott took the mindfulness piece into his own hands, focusing on team building and talking about one of his favorite inspiring films, “Freedom Writers,” which he encouraged the kids to watch and reflect upon at home. He understands that the Nashua youth come from traumatic backgrounds, are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and have a different set of challenges than most – and it is his personal mission in life to see them rise up out of their circumstances with strength, courage, and resilience. 

Every day that he’s out there with the kids, he is showing up for them as a mentor, friend, and coach. They know he loves them, and it matters. Thanks, Scott. We couldn’t do it without you.

Co-Executive Director Brittany Boles,

January’s Leader of the Month, brings the magic.

We’ll be ringing in the new year and the new decade with January’s Leader of the Month – our own Brittany!

Brittany Boles, co-Executive Director of Advantage Kids, wears many hats. Our resident Magical Yogi, she brings a decade of experience working with youth to our courts – and our headquarters. From designing all our pretty marketing materials to managing our social media accounts and helping pull off events like TennisGolf, she brings creativity and a positive attitude to our behind-the-scenes.

“I’m like the moon to Dawn’s sun,” she says about her dynamic partnership with co-Executive Director Dawn Dragon. Together, they are leading Advantage Kids into a new dimension of youth development.

Brittany is a certified Yoga & Meditation instructor, and is currently leading our kids in Laconia and Nashua in these mindful practices via our new Tennis PLUS (yoga + meditation) programming. Something special happens when Brittany gets our kids onto their mats; the room becomes calm and peaceful, people open up, and everyone’s focus becomes clear.

We are so grateful and can’t wait to see what other magic Brittany brings to the organization!

Coach Terry Wilson,

Portrait of Coach Terry drawn by 7 year-old Adrianna

December’s Leader of the Month, is a LEGEND.

Gilford has a legendary Boys varsity tennis program due to their tennis coach…Terry Wilson!  For the last 20 years he has coached, mentored and guided generations of tennis lovers.

We here at AK have reaped the benefit of Terry’s impeccable record and golden touch. In 2019, we have been blessed to have 6 of Terry’s former high school varsity tennis players teach tennis in our free summer programs offered in the Lakes Region. The character and ability of these kids to teach and guide is a testament to Terry’s leadership. Terry knew he had something special going on when he was able to retain players from Freshman year through graduation. He says “If any coach has kids for 4 years they can count themselves lucky.”  

Terry has been fortunate in his 20 years of coaching to have won 7 state championships and runner up 5 times.  Between the years of 2012-2018 his team has won 97 straight matches encompassing 5 state championships. Terry expresses this success quite simply as a “Great great run!”  This type of record doesn’t happen on accident.

When asked what motivates him, Terry’s response was simple.  He enjoys working with kids. Their excitement is his reward.  They are 100% genuine. His strength is in his ability to change and adapt to the children. Young kids show up and are so eager to learn.  

20 years of coaching experience boils down to 3 basic principles according to Terry.  These principles can be applied to more than just tennis. Be safe, learn something and then test your skills.  Terry has found this recipe works to keep his players motivated to learn not only in tennis but also in life.

One thing terry loves about tennis is the underdog can be the hero. The beauty of tennis is that you are putting your #1 player against their #1 player and your #6 player against their #6 player. Your #6 player is as important as your #1 player. They have the chance to win and end up being the superstar.

Terry Wilson has been teaching tennis for Advantage Kids since the inception in 2012 at the town courts or the Laconia Boys and Girls Club.  He has been playing tennis for 25-30 years and coaching the Gilford varsity boys tennis team for 20 years. He became a certified USPTA certified instructor in 2006.  Two of his former students who work for AK are now certified tennis pros or in the process of becoming certified.

Terry has two families…his immediate family and his tennis family.  We would like to thank him for being part of the Advantage Kids family!

Carolyn and Kent Hemingway,

November’s Leaders, are the Dream Team

Huge shout out to Kent and Carolyn Hemingway – the dream team of Advantage Kids!  They have been volunteering their time to teach tennis and enrichment to the Mount Washington Valley with heartfelt dedication.

Their ability to touch the lives of children is undeniable.  Through the Jackson and Cranmore USTA Team Challenges to the Cranmore Indoor Tennis co-op program they have exposed elementary through high school kids locally as well as children from China, South Korea, Spain and Germany.  

To be taught by these former educators is a blessing. Their unique approach of teaching tennis with invaluable life skills positively impacts all.  Jaylnn’s mom from Jackson complimented their program stating “All the coaches were so friendly and patient. My daughter greatly struggles with ADHD. As a mom I was so happy she didn’t stand out. Each station was organized in a way that you learned a new skill and practiced. I loved how inviting and encouraging everyone was.”

Their most recent endeavor is the very rewarding ACEing Autism program at the Laconia Boys and Girls Club.  ACEing Autism is a national nonprofit designed to use the sport of tennis as a means to provide unique social and developmental benefits to children with autism. Visit https://aceingautism.org/ for more information.

Kent & Carolyn are also looking to bring tennis into the SAU 9 and 13 physical education programs with the help of USTA Net Generation.  AK is looking forward to partnering with schools to keep tennis alive in NH!

Although recently retired, Kent & Carolyn are growing tennis with an unwavering dedication.  Thanks from AK and all the children and families you have touched!