SKYHAWKS TENNIS 101
History Skyhawks Tennis is a team format for Junior Tennis in Simcoe County. The team was created in 2012 after a player vote on team name. It was former Skyhawk player Hannah Alimajstorovic who came up with the name.
It was created because Tennis has long been an individual sport, which is great but it lacks many of the positive qualities of team sports such as camaraderie, the feeling of a family and community to play for, and learning to work together for a common goal. The team format also allows more match play opportunities. As coaches we found it difficult to watch our players when they were all at different age category singles events (OTA has very few doubles events, and is just now beginning to feature the odd team event) Since The Skyhawks Team is just 5 years old most of the programs are new and evolving. Rather than having a long history of making mistakes and creating the most efficient pathways we are currently in the 'making mistakes' phase of this evolution. Not just in our area, but as a pioneer program (Team Tennis is not common throughout the world) we are forging new pathways in terms of how it all works. In the beginning we relied on setting up one-off exhibition matches with other clubs. We forged relationships with local and provincial clubs and played as much as we could, but there was no 'big picture' or championships to play for.
The Superleague; now called Houseleague is the oldest and longest running league program in our area. It started in 2007, so has a decade of championship history. It has grown to also feature a U10 Little League and was designed so that players and parents no longer had to drive long distances to compete. In the past it was very difficult for our local players to get that first taste of competition without significant travel and often losing first round to more seasoned players in larger population centers. By having a week-in-week-out chance to work on your skills our players learn the art of competition against fellow Skyhawks, it's here we can treat the competition court as an extension of the practice court. Rivalries are built and players learn about themselves and their teammates. And it's all at home and comparative to OTA events; inexpensive and time efficient.
The Elvis Trophy is the ugliest in tennis but it holds a special place in our tennis communities history. It was this bust of a trophy that spurred the creation of the NSL (note: the OTA at one point had a Junior League called GO FOR GOLD, that lasted a few years, and eventually ended) The challenge with Team Tennis has always been money. Our sport differs from Hockey and Soccer mostly in that it's run by paid professionals instead of volunteers. Leagues don't last because these paid professionals are not willing to work for free. And since the infrastructure is not set up for it, it fails often. The Skyhawks have their name written all over The Elvis trophy, but it's currently at Newmarket until we win him back.
The NSL (North South League) was created in 2014 and our U18 Team won the title in the inaugural season defeating TAC in The Finals weekend. They then turned around in 2015 and repeated as champs in what was an exciting finals weekend with some feathers ruffled by edging out Newmarket, who has become our closest and most positive rival.
Since the creation of The Skyhawks we have had many incredible battles with Newmarket. When the two clubs meet it's a totally different atmosphere. If you haven't seen a match yet, be sure to catch us play them this year (Saturday Dec 2 in Newmarket). It's like an NCAA title match with players cheering as loud as can be and coaching each other to what they hope will be victory.
ICTA (Inter County Tennis Association) is the largest running league association in the country. And up until just a few years ago was just for adults. It features clubs across the province and has several divisions. Beginning in 2015 The Skyhawks competed in the junior divisions (after years of requesting, this was tough to finally get granted permission to compete as many of the clubs in the GTA didn't want to travel to Barrie, hence we are now the furthest northern team in the league and we still get complaints and even forfeits from clubs refusing to travel just 50 minutes up the road) In the two years The Skyhawks have competed in this league we have placed runner-up twice and one bronze finish. The ICTA also runs something called Tennis Rocks, which is a ONE-DAY festival at The Aviva Center. The Skyhawks have two championships in two years of competition at this event.
MRTC League. This league was created last winter when MRTC (Marlyn Redvers Tennis Club) opened up. This club is a sister club to BNWT as part of the larger brand Tennis Clubs of Canada. Due to the dynamics of the league coaches are not permitted to coach "in-game" like they can during NSL matches, therefore for these matches there has not been coaches present at these matches. They are wonderful extra competition.
Exhibition matches are still a stable in The Skyhawks competitive season. We have traveled to Ottawa every year since 2013 in early January to play OAC and Outaouais Performance in Quebec for what has been incredible competition (we have yet to win one of these team matches) and Niagara Tennis Academy every spring to play the international players who reside there at one of the very few Canadian bordered education included academies, as well as several other exhibition matches ranging as far as North Bay. None of these matches are required, we just see who can go each year and have a lot of fun bonding as a team. These events are the glue to our tennis community, they are the times when parents get to know each other and get chances to talk to coaches about things like how the Leafs are doing, or favorite travel destinations etc. In other words, it's here we really get to know each other and finally get a chance to talk about things other than tennis.
We also have made a tradition of doing one US trip each year. We have gone to Smith Tennis in 2015, Luis Guizar in 2016, and Hilton Head in 2017. These trips have been wonderful exposure for those who were able to afford the trip. This year we are deciding between a return to Hilton Head or to try Johan Kreik academy in Miami.
We have also hosted one of the only, if not THE ONLY U8 Team Tournament at BNWT which has featured Red Ball Team matches. This event is a real spectacle, 2018 will be the 4th year we have run this event.
That brings us up to speed to today. As of today The Skyhawks have more competitive opportunities than we know what to do with.
U10 Lil'Hawks This is our entry program for kids under 10 using Progressive Balls. The kids currently train twice a week for a total of 120 minutes. U12 Skyhawks
Trains twice weekly for a total of 240 minutes plus Houseleague on Saturdays
Trains twice weekly for a total of 240 minutes plus Houseleague on Saturdays
U18 SKyhawks Trains twice weekly for a total of 240 minutes plus Houseleague on Saturdays
Motto: ANYBALL, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME, ANYONE. We are not tennis snobs. We love this game so much we take any chance we can to play. We play with a beginners mind, even if we have expert skills. We take the chance to teach and remember we too were once beginners. Our racquet does the talking for us.
Mission statement: To develop accountable, aware and competitive athletes who play smart and courageous tennis
Our personal committment: To lead by example in terms of an attitude of constant self-improvement and to dedicate our time and passion to those who are willing to make a commitment to tennis and who demonstrate the courage and will to be accountable for their actions
There are two seasons. Indoor (Nov-Apr) and outdoor (May-Oct). The indoor season is with BNWT (Barrie North Winter Tennis) and since this is a private run tennis club it requires each player to purchase a club membership to be able to play for the team. The indoor season consists of 3, 8 week sessions. Practice and Houseleague are included in the session fee you pay. Each NSL or MRTC match or exhibition matches include an additional fee (typically each club charges approximately $20 per match played, and most provide a snack and drinks, plus this covers the court hire and having tennis balls, usually brand new)
The outdoor season is with Simcoe Tennis. ST is based out of MTC (Midhurst Tennis Club) which is a community tennis club, so no private memberships are required. The ICTA league which is in the outdoor season usually charges about $5 per match played, as is the same for any exhibition matches. League is included in your ST Skyhawks fee.
FOT (Friends of Tennis) was created just this year (spring of 2017) and has just now appointed a President (Crystal Kucherawy) and a Treasurer (Ingolf Goetz) The purpose of this group is to plan fundraising efforts, decide on trips, and team uniforms and any other need the Junior Tennis Program may need.
So its all very new, and things are growing rapidly. Its an exciting time for tennis in the Barrie area. So far there is yet to be a club to follow us by naming their team and having uniforms. There are many reasons preventing this at many of the other clubs, but our hope is that eventually these clubs will have the same open-minded trust that our management at BNWT had in taking the risk to do something completely different in terms of how tennis is practiced and played.
So if you are new to tennis you may be forgiven for thinking that what is happening at our club is happening all over and has been for many years. That would be the case in Europe and in US high schools, but not here in Canada. We hope that will change because the benefits are obvious.
We have been asked to share our model of change to many other clubs who are taking notice of the SKYHAWKS experiment, so perhaps change is coming. Until then we will continue to forge ahead in creating a new landscape for tennis in Canada.