H-F Tennisfest coach offers variety of clinics
By Logan Malloy Correspondent July 26, 2012 3:10PM
The Homewoood-Flossmoor Racquet and Fitness Club’s 25th annual Tennisfest featured a variety of clinics, including one for people who use wheelchairs. | Supplied photo
Updated: August 30, 2012 6:03AM
It wasn’t unusual to see Tim Rice leading a skills clinic at the Homewoood-Flossmoor Racquet and Fitness Club’s 25th annual Tennisfest.
But what might surprise was the variety of people Rice coaches.
For the second consecutive year, Rice was set to guide an hourlong wheelchair tennis clinic July 14 — although rain ultimately put a damper on the clinic — to show the sport is possible even through the restrictions of a disability.
“A lot of the tennis players I coach are quadriplegics, so they have to tape the racquets to their hands,” Rice said. “I’ve played in a wheelchair for learning purposes and it’s very difficult. Some of the players use manual wheelchairs and others motorized.”
Rice, a Frankfort resident, coaches the 17th ranked player in the world, Adrian Dieleman. For his work with the Canadian player, Rice is now a two-time Coach of the Year recipient from the Canadian Tennis Association. He will travel to Toronto in August to receive his most recent award on centre court at the Rogers Cup.
“I started coaching wheelchair tennis four years ago,” Rice said. “(Dielemen) needed a coach, and I was here and able to do it.”
Rice has worked at the H-F Club for 27 years, been a USPTA certified coach for 20 of those and has witnessed the steady expansion of Tennisfest over the last quarter century.
The wheelchair clinic was one of many sessions presented at Tennisfest, which routinely sees 2,500 people walk through the doors during its 12-day run. At its inception, an average of 500 people attended.
Rice attributes the unceasing work ethic of manager Slyvia Gothard as reason for the continued growth.
“Sylvia does everything,” Rice said. “Whatever you see here is what she’s done. She has a great team and group of volunteers to help, but she’s the one behind all of that.”
For Gothard, she’s pleased to bring this high caliber event to the Southland.
“I’ve been blessed with all the people I’ve met through tennis,” Gothard said. “When I started this, I just wanted to show tennis through a different light.
“It’s not something I dreamed would last this long. As long as people show up and enjoy it, that’s what counts.”
Tennisfest ran July 11 through 22. Other events hosted at the proceedings included the Little Mo Regional Invitational, where 80 of the top youth tennis players from the Northeast and Midwest competed for a spot at the national tournament in Austin, Texas. The top four boys and girls from each division advance, and past winners include Andy Roddick and 2012 Olympians Donald Young and Ryan Harrison. Young competed at these very courts a decade ago on his way to the Little Mo National Championship.
Tennisfest also featured free tennis lessons to juniors and adults and competitive tennis tournaments in both singles and doubles for a broad range of ages.