Family Open Was 'Fun' For Everyone
By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
Music blared from a couple of speakers while play was ongoing. Four of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Cary Street courts were divided into smaller courts with little nets. There was a 10-minute break for a dance contest.
Is this any way to hold a tennis tournament? Well, yes, if it’s the third annual Lobs and Lessons Family Open at the Mary and Frances Youth Center on VCU’s campus.
On Saturday, the tournament attracted 26 teams in two divisions of an adult-child, round-robin doubles event using QuickStart rules and equipment. There were two divisions, 15-under open (ages 11-15 or 10-younger advanced players) and 10-under (any level)
Adults had to be 18 and older, and were usually Moms and Dads and sometimes grandparents.
The tournament was the brainchild of Rachel Rhoney, the assistant director at MFYC.
“Tina [Carter, director of MFYC] and I had been to the community tennis development workshop, and we were realizing that the volunteers enjoyed playing QuickStart tennis as much as the kids. So we wanted to find a way to get the parents involved and show them that you can play tennis at any age. This format is fun for any age.
“We decided to replicate the event we do in the spring, the Young Aces Open, and we thought it would work well to pair adults and children. Whether it was families, or some of our under-served population where we could bring kids out and pair them with our volunteers for the day.”
Rhoney was attending VCU’s Sport Leadership Center at the time, and, she said, “I had a project to do for my externship, and I thought this would be a great way to round out my program [in school]. Events and tennis are two things I’m also passionate about.”
Through sponsorships, the event provided breakfast and lunch for the participants, who seemed to be enjoying themselves on a cool, overcast morning at the courts. There were six rounds of play that featured some competitive points and plenty of laughter.
All matches were played on 36-foot QuickStart courts using foam balls and 23-inch racquets. Winners were determined by total points accumulated during the six rounds, since game scores were not kept in the traditional fashion.
The 10-under division was won by Neville Jones and his 8-year-old daughter, Sydney, a third-grader at Alberta Smith Elementary in Chesterfield County. The Jones duo finished with an impressive 113 points.
“Tennis is our passion,” said Neville Jones. “We love it. I started picking it up when she turned about 4 years old. We learned together. She loves it. We just started playing through parks and recreation. Went to some small classes and clinics. Watching a lot on TV.
Asked if she had a favorite player, Sydney said, “Serena [Williams, No. 1 player in the world].”
Added her father, “She likes a lot of the young ones, too. They are inspirations for her. She wants to follow in somebody’s footsteps. In fact, she’d like to be a volunteer for Lobs and Lessons one day. She thinks it’s a fun sport.
“We’re not in it just for the prizes. We’re here because it’s a good event to do positive things and meet positive people. Actually, it’s our first time in any event. We enjoyed it and we hope to come back.”
The 15-under division featured something of a ‘ringer’ in former VCU No. 1 player Sofia Hiort-Wright and her daughter, Olivia, 10, who is a fifth-grader at the new Kaechele Elementary School in Henrico County. They dominated their division, chalking up 116 points.
“I used to volunteer here a lot,” said Sofia. “Just come down on Mondays and help. I always like to support it.”
This was the first time that Olivia and her Mom had played together in a tournament.
“It was fun,” said Olivia, who also plays soccer and missed the tournament last year because of a game.
“It was fun and for a good cause,” said Sofia, who is senior associate athletic director at VCU. “It was fun to play together. We’ll do it again. It was great to be back on my old courts. It’s a great event. I hope more people come out next year.”
The beneficiary of the tournament is Lobs and Lessons, a youth enrichment program at the Mary and Frances Youth Center that strengthens life skills, promotes academics and creates a path to higher education through the sport of tennis.
Lobs and Lessons Family Open Results
- Neville and Sydney Jones (113 points)
- Eric and Nate Gobble (99)
- Dan and Joselyn Limbago (86) and Steven and Ainsley McKay (86)
- Sofia and Olivia Hiort-Wright (116 points)
- Jonathan and Jazmine Davis (105)
- Clark and Zion Woods (84)