Giving Kids an Advantage – Stories of Success
We do it for the kids, for their communities, and for their future. Here are some of our successes.
Junior Ambassador, Oziera Ahmad,
Exudes excellence in every way
You might remember her from our Tennis-at-Home videos during quarantine! Oziera is an Excellence Player who is also a volunteer and ambassador for Advantage Kids – and she’s going places.
Not only is she ranked #2 in New England for her age group, she is nationally ranked #120! She has countless trophies and tournament wins, and has a shot at the Big Time. We all agree.
Last week, Oziera was invited to Greensboro, North Carolina, to spend four days training at the Greensboro Tennis Program with their Excellence Team. It went so well that she has accepted their invitation to live and train down in Greensboro for at least the next year!
We expect this to turn into one of those . . . big once-in-a-lifetime moments. She’s a first generation Malaysian American ranked #2 in New England 16 Division. She’s a big deal, and she has a lot of people cheering for her. Laury Hammel, her coach, the club owner up here, Advantage Kids, the USTA Excellence Player program, and of course, all of us, personally.
After just four days in Greensboro, she made quite the impression. The director down there said, “She’s a sweet girl, goes about her business, gets along with everyone,” and added that “she got stronger every day she was here!”
Oziera and her family are thrilled, and her move is already booked for this coming Thursday. So if you know her in real life, it’s time to say a goodbye-for-now as she packs her bags.
We are so thankful for those who have supported her journey. She is extremely grateful in a pay-it-forward kind of way, volunteering as an ambassador for us and on the courts every week. She’s the kind of young woman we all aspire to be.
Advantage Kids took Oziera on as an ambassador and helped her make the connection with Greensboro, and we have offered some financial assistance as well. This is absolutely a team effort, and we are honored to be on that team.
Her coach, Laury, said, “Thank you. I’m inspired and grateful.”
Mountain Tennis was a huge win
for the Dana Steele Memorial Scholarship
This men’s doubles scramble fundraiser tournament for the Dana Steele Memorial Scholarship and the USTA’s Advantage Kids program is run annually at several tennis clubs in New Hampshire by Advantage Kids Director Kent Hemingway.
This is the first year that Jackson Tennis Club (JTC) hosted the event and it was quite exciting tennis coming from 12 participants including 7 JTC members Paul Pacenka, Paul Schuepp, Jason Cicero, Mike Mallet, Kent Hemingway, Nick Thompson and Kirk Plender, as well as John Tanzman officiating play and scoring. Winning the final doubles match with Jason was Paul Schuepp against second place doubles team Warren Steele and Kent Hemingway.
Jason Cicero displays the “Gimme Da Rock” JTC trophy awarded to him as champion of the 1st annual Mountain Tennis Tournament held at the Jackson Tennis Club.
All proceeds of the event will go towards the Dana Steele Memorial Scholarship through Advantage Kids, providing continued Tennis PLUS (yoga + meditation) programs for at-risk youth.
Dana Steele was a great player, coach and advocate for kids. He taught youth tennis in NH for over 40 years through lessons, camps and his time as teaching professional at Mt. Cranmore Tennis Center. He also coached baseball, skiing and led hikes through the White Mountains for athletes and adventurers of all ages.
Jackson Tennis Club hosted the Advantage Kids weekly tennis camp for over 50 kids ages 8 through 14 all summer. The last Advantage Kids days at JTC will be September 30th and October 7.
Thank you to all the Mountain Tennis participants for generous donations to the scholarship.
Team Player of the Month in Nashua
Focused. Determined. An amazing role model.
Evangeline from the Advantage Kids Greater Nashua Boys and Girls Club/Longfellow crew stands taller than most. In more ways than one….she is a true leader. As the kids prepare for Tennis Plus yoga practice they take off their shoes, find a mat and settle into sitting quietly. As the room quiets, there are continued giggles and chatter amongst friends. It has been a long day at school. Energies are still bursting. BUT Evangeline knows why they are there…to get the most out of the opportunity they have been given. They are 14 kids chosen from the entire Boys and Girls Club to take part in this unique and rewarding program. Evangeline is serious and wants everyone to be able to fully participate uninterrupted for the fullest experience. The kids follow her lead with obvious respect. She and others drift peacefully into mediation.
“On the tennis court, she is the kind that if she got out there and had a 2:1 ratio she would go gangbusters on it. She loved the ball machine…so focused. She has the potential. She is putting in the hard work. She is always so upbeat and positive. She is always helping other girls. She is a team leader without being assigned the role of team leader. She was one of the first girls starting in September at Boys and Girls Club when there were only 4 girls and has consistently shown up.” says her tennis coach Scott McDougald.
She earned the March Team Player of the Month award as evidenced by the unanimous vote by her peers. Her name will hang and be displayed proudly on the Advantage Kids Team Player of the Month sign for years to come. Way to go, Evangeline!
Addyson and her dog,
A Winning Team
Tennis and a loving dog…just the fan club Addyson needed to bring home the victory.
Addyson has the mental toughness needed so often to succeed in tennis (and life). She has had to master the discipline needed to control diabetes with her trusty pooch, Vegas, by her side. Every difficult situation has a silver lining, and her determination and drive in her personal life has carried through onto the courts.
Addyson is a sophomore from Kearsarge who had never participated in the Annual Preseason High School Jamboree held at the Health Club of Concord.
Addyson Stadler defeated Oyster River’s 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!
With Sullivan Mousseau,
it’s a family affair
Advantage Kids was beaming with pride as we saw one of our own attend the 3rd Annual Preseason High School Jamboree held at the Health Club of Concord earlier this month.
Sullivan Mousseau can be seen summer after summer attending the Advantage Kids tennis program run in partnership with Laconia Parks and Recreation. He is not the only family member to attend. Sullivan brings along his 5 siblings Francesca, Cooper, Holden, Madeline and Finnian. They definitely follow the adage of “A family that plays together, stays together.”
Sullivan, accompanied by a friend this time, fearlessly signed up for the high school jamboree. This is amazing because Laconia High School doesn’t have a tennis program. Sullivan and Joey Bailey signed up simply because they LOVE tennis. Not because they needed to train to be the best. Not because their coaches encouraged them. They saw the fliers, made the call, played and had fun.
Joey expressed “The tennis jamboree was Sully’s idea and I was a little nervous at first, but it ended up being a great time. I personally haven’t ever played a real game before but everyone there was nice and the way the tournament was set up meant we were able to have a good time anyway. I would recommend this to pretty much any level of high school player that wants to meet some other players from the area, and will hopefully be doing it again next year.”
Advantage Kids hopes to spread the love of tennis to kids and their families throughout NH. Thank you Mousseau family and friends for showing us what the love of tennis is all about!
Serving Up Love
with Coach Sue Connolly
Susan Connolly is Serving up Love off the courts! Valentines Day was just a little extra special for the kids who participated in the Meredith and Moultonborough Free Advantage Kids Summer Tennis program.
On February 14th, these Lakes Region kids opened their mailboxes to a special surprise from their favorite summertime coach. A loving and thoughtful valentine just to let them know they are in Susan’s heart year round! The relationships she has with the kids is heartwarming.
Owen Touhey, 7 years old, returned the love with his own special valentine for Susan. His card read “Coach Connolly, When I got your note I was coming back from tennis lessons at Gilford Hills. I have been taking lessons since November. From, Owen.” It warms our heart to see one of Advantage Kids Meredith participants continuing with tennis at our local club. Great job Owen!
Susan, you and your kids are treasured and special to Advantage Kids year round!
Jonathan & William – Laconia Boys & Girls Club –
Future Tennis Stars
Meet Advantage Kids future tennis stars! Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region after-school program participants, Jonathan Stebbins and WIlliam Thayer, are showing real promise at only 10 years old. They jumped right into playing a “real” match while others were still learning to rally. And boy, were they in it to win it!
Their enthusiasm and competitive nature stole the show as the other kids stopped and cheered them on. A grandfather from another child looked on in awe from the sidelines. He was amazed and greatly appreciated the tennis being offered to these kids. As a board member of Bolduc Park, a local non-profit offering golf and cross country skiing to members of the Lakes Region, he understood the importance of having impactful activities for our youth.
Advantage Kids partners with the Lakes Region Boys & Girls Club by continuing to offer free after-school tennis year after year. We love our Boys and Girls Club kids!
Brooklyn – Nashua Tennis PLUS –
Named “Team Player of the Month” by her peers
Brooklyn Sanders was nominated by fellow Tennis PLUS youth in Nashua for being an outstanding example of a leader. Coach Scott decided to start this tradition to inspire his kids to notice each other’s best qualities. They wrote down people’s names and why they deserved to be the “Team Player of the Month.”
Brooklyn not only takes the time to help out her teammates on the courts, but she is also a role model in the yoga room. She is respectful, kind, and helpful to the kids and coaches.
When it came time to present the award, the kids were thrilled. “It’s Brooklyn! We already know!” they clamored to tell us. “We ALL wrote down her name because she’s obviously the best.”
That’s the kind of team building we’re doing over here, and it matters. We rise together!
Tommy – Cranmore Youth –
rallying to follow through
Copelin – Laconia Boys & Girls Club Representative –
role model, hype-man, confidant
Copelin Leroux is a 17 year old high school junior who works part time at the Laconia Boys & Girls Club. He has a special knack for connecting with the kids. He not only makes them super excited for participating, but is also especially good when they need someone to talk to when they are feeling a bit overwhelmed. Copelin is the designated Boys & Girls representative assigned to help with AK tennis. And boy, did they choose the right guy! Copelin can be leading a game of minnows and shark, feeding balls, rallying, keeping score, but BEST OF ALL he can be found on the bench sitting beside a kiddo who maybe just needed a break. He wants to be a good role model and help teach them respect and listening skills.
Years ago in the summer, Copelin participated in the AK tennis program and is happy to see that it is still going on and the kids are enjoying it. He says not all kids want to play basketball or soccer, and he thinks tennis is perfect for them. Exactly! Plus, they can play for a lifetime!
Copelin also has a vision. A vision we at Advantage Kids share. He says “One major thing I want to do at the Boys and Girls Club is to have a program where the older kids can have a staff member they can just talk to about stuff that could be troubling them. Someone they could kinda chill with…. Having someone other than a family member is always good in my opinion, since they might not understand what you’re going through or the issue might just BE family. Kids need some kind of outlet like that.” We couldn’t agree more Copelin! Sounds pretty similar to the Mindful Mentor program AK is developing with local high school students. Keep a lookout in the future for more details on this developing and exciting AK program!
Evangeline – Nashua Youth –
setting the example, building up her peers
“Thank you,” she said, calmly, looking Brittany directly in the eyes, after most of the other kids had already risen loudly and boisterously to their feet to scramble out of the room.
Evangeline is a young person with an old soul. She knows the value of what she is receiving at Nashua Longfellow Swim & Tennis Club with Advantage Kids. She quiets her body and mind while she sits on the mat for mindfulness, and she expects everyone else to do the same.
She’s a leader among her peers, and often jumps in to smooth the overwhelm before it gets out of control, telling the “troublemakers” to “shhh! pay attention!” and modeling the kind of focus we all expect to see out of these kids. Out on the court, she listens to Coach Scott with rapt attention and helps her fellow players understand and execute the games and drills. She’s always willing to partner with whoever needs her, and is quick to assist or intervene however needed.
This is the kind of person WE want to be, we want to nurture, and we want to watch thrive. Thank you, Evangeline.
Wyatt – Nashua Youth –
has transformed into a focused yogi, tennis player, group leader
The first thing you notice about Wyatt is everything. He has flaming red hair and a personality to match; this is the child whose energy is contagious. Reluctant to try yoga for the first time, he nonetheless sat in the front and center of the room. After one session with Brittany, he was already more peaceful and focused. During the second yoga session, he was elevated to the front of the room and got to demonstrate some poses with Brittany – then, when it came time to play tennis, he suddenly was able to volley the ball, going on a three-hit streak to the amazed cheers of all! “It’s all the yoga,” he said, grinning. We couldn’t agree more, Wyatt! Namaste!
Court Meditation – at Longfellow New Hampshire Swim & Tennis Club –
a chance to “put down the weight.”
“Find three things you can hear – focus just on what you can hear. Now, three things you can smell . . .” she said, and to everyone’s utter amazement each of the children did exactly that, calmly and with eyes closed, under the bright lights at Longfellow New Hampshire Tennis & Swim Club.
Afterward, the kids were asked to describe their experience. One said, “I feel so calm and peaceful right now. Like, even if someone were to – I don’t know – yell at me or something, it wouldn’t even be able to take away my calmness.”
Later, in the yoga room, that same child shared more about their feelings. “You keep moving your shoulders around,” Brittany pointed out, “it’s almost like you’ve let go of some tension you were holding.”
The child replied, “Yeah! It feels like I put down a big weight. I’ve been getting in trouble a lot lately, but I feel a lot better now.”
Ozeira – High Performance Player + Inspirational Volunteer
Freshly back from competing in the Junior Orange Bowl in Florida, Oziera returned to Nashua to volunteer with the weekly Tennis PLUS (yoga + meditation) program.
Despite her rigorous tennis and academic schedule, in which she excels, Oziera remains dedicated to mentoring younger players. She works alongside Coach Scott to wrangle more than a dozen Nashua middle schoolers every Friday afternoon on the courts.
Here, she pauses for a photo with Camrin, a program youth, between yoga and tennis.
Maeve Torrey – High School Volunteer Mentor –
received a glowing recommendation from Coach Kent. These are some of his words:
Maeve Torrey has volunteered for the past two years as a coach with the nationally recognized Aceing Autism tennis program. Aceing Autism is sponsored by Advantage Kids New Hampshire, a non-profit organization dedicated to youth development through tennis. Maeve has demonstrated exceptional skills assisting children with autism, guiding them to combine physical, social and interpersonal skills in each session.
Maeve quickly established a strong level of trust and engagement with our players and was always anticipating how she could provide the best support in every session. Many of the activities involved non-tennis skills such as balance, coordination and motor control. Maeve would model, assist and support throughout the session to ensure that each player got the most out of each session.
Maeve attended every session, held on Sunday afternoons, making her participation a priority in her busy world.
We are pleased to offer this recommendation as we have found Maeve to have the commitment, sensitivity and interpersonal skills necessary for finding success in just about any field. Her compassion and engagement with these players was exceptional, and we certainly hope she will be able to continue to work with this and other Advantage Kids youth development programs.
Nashua Boys & Girls Club + Longfellow Athletic Club = A Brand New Program
that the cold air couldn’t stop. Here’s the story of these ultra-dedicated kids:
Advantage Kids has begun its new and exciting partnership with the Longfellow Tennis and Swim Club and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Nashua.
Scott McDougald, a PTR certified tennis instructor, provided over 40 kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Nashua with free tennis lessons this fall. The cold air couldn’t even hold these kids back from rallying to participate using their outdoor space. Scott’s love of tennis is evident on the court and felt by all. The word spread quickly through the Boys and Girls Club and kids continually arrived each week with a new friend wanting to join. Check out the kids in their new T-shirts offered by Advantage Kids, Longfellow and the Boys and Girls Club.
As the fall program celebrated its graduation, 14 lucky and deserving kids from the Boys and Girls Club were selected to experience tennis on real courts at the Longfellow Tennis and Swim Club. We are sure the kids will be in awe under the lights and expanse of their beautiful indoor courts. Transportation will be provided between the clubs by the Boys and Girls Club.
The kids will be pleasantly surprised when they arrive at Longfellow as Advantage Kids excitedly announces our new pilot program, “Tennis PLUS” – combining tennis with yoga and meditation. Tennis Plus begins December 6th. Look for hearing about the success of our new pilot program in the January newsletter!
ACEing Autism returns to Laconia Boys & Girls Club, Everyone Wins
Advantage Kids is proud to have offered the 3rd annual ACEing Autism program in partnership with the national Los Angeles based organization, a nonprofit whose mission is to connect children with autism through unique tennis programs.
“ACEing Autism opens up the world to kids on the spectrum,” says Lakes Region Community Services Autism Coordinator Patricia Hunt. AK has been fortunate to have children returning year after year. Kolby Dubiesz has enjoyed the tennis program so much he is considering trying out for his highschool team this Spring!
A special visit from Miles Vidreiro, the behavior specialist and quality control manager with Aceing Autism, focused on encouraging independence as much as possible. He says “A big part of this is effective delivery (and fading) of prompting. You will need to prompt throughout the clinic, especially during the technical tennis parts. With that said, always be mindful to fade off as soon as possible.” The prompt and fade approach is a valuable tool for all coaches.
While independence is a priority, having the participants interacting with each other as much as possible was the biggest takeaway according to Program Directors Kent and Carolyn Hemingway. We were introduced to several ways to do this, including: pairing them when possible (Group Warm-up, Hand-Eye, Racquet Skills), having them tag each other in during shuffling drills, and “high five a new friend” after different activities. Games such as pancake, where participants work together to “pancake” tennis balls between racquets while shuffling down the courts was a big hit.
AK is honored to be part of such a heartfelt program!
Dean Mason – Donovan Award Winner –
made a speech at the TennisGolf Fundraiser. These are his words:
Hi, I’m Dean Mason. This program has meant so much to me. I learned the skills to now be able to try out for the high school tennis team. I have learned a lot and I’m able to keep the ball going back and forth with my brother Mason. We have both been in this program for three years and it’s been a lot of fun. Without these lessons, I would not have these lifetime skills. I would not have a future in tennis or this experience. Without this program, like many others, my family would not be able to afford tennis lessons. I thank my coaches very much for making the three years a fun learning experience. The coaches have made these lessons more meaningful – they taught me the skills and how to keep score. They don’t teach like it’s a job, they teach with lots of love, respect, kindness, energy, patience, adventure, affection, consideration, braveness, and must have much adaptability.
I could not find enough words to describe what this program and these coaches have given me.