Kinder ‘quietly’ leads junior team to national title

by John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Kinder ‘quietly’ leads junior team to national title

 Jason Kinder found himself working with some of the best juniors in the country when the U.S. Tennis Association hired him to be one of the coaches for the USTA National Spring Team Championships in Mobile, Ala.

The director of tennis at acac Fitness and Wellness-Richmond, Kinder was placed in charge of the Titans, a talented bunch who went unbeaten at 4-0 and took the gold medal with a 6-1 victory over the Eagles in the title match on March 7.

This was Kinder’s first time guiding one of these national teams but he struck the right chord with his group.

“The thing I tried to communicate to my team was, look, we’re all Americans out here, and you guys are the future of American tennis,” said Kinder. “We need to make sure that, first and foremost, we’re great sportsmen.

“Top college coaches not only want great players, they want great people.

“With my team, I would not get caught up in any cheating and line-calling disputes. I made sure my team understood that, and I never had one problem with my team all weekend. My team led by example and that was a big reason why they were successful.”

This tournament used the college format with its matches, where three doubles matches counted only one point (whoever won two matches) and each singles match counted one point. The Titans conceded just five points in four wins.

Each team consisted of two 14-year-olds, two 16-year-olds and two 18-year-olds. With the exception of 16-year-old Andrew Dale (Leesburg), the rest of the squad was from various cities around the country.  

Dale is ranked No. 3 in the nation in the 16s, Kinder said, but he played “up” in the 18s and more than held his own.

Most, if not all, of these players will go on to play for the top college programs in the country, Kinder said. It’s also conceivable some of them will decide to turn pro and test their skills against the best players in the world.

A number of coaches from around the country were on hand at the tournament checking out the players, Kinder said.

Dale said he recognized from the beginning that Kinder helped form a cohesive unit.

“The first practice [by the Titans] was great and we kind of clicked immediately,” Dale told the web site zootennis.com. “I knew, whatever happened in the tournament, that we’d be a close team and always be at each other’s side.

“That was what I thought was one of the best qualities about my team.”

The closeness, combined with the talent on his squad, made it relatively easy for Kinder. While this was Kinder’s first time coaching in this event, he has directed Mid-Atlantic teams in national competition in the past.

“I just tried to stay quiet and stay focused on coaching the kids,” Kinder said on the web site zootennis.com. “Not get too wrapped up in the potential results and trying to predetermine the outcome.

“As a coach, I just wanted to stay focused on them, help them when they needed help and be quiet when they needed me to be quiet. Sometimes you just pat them on the back and walk away.”

There were excellent players on each squad in the 16-team draw but the Titans– and Kinder– were the ones that left with the nicest medal.

“The whole tournament was full of talent,” said Kinder, the long-time pro at acac-Richmond. “My guys just happened to be better in the right situations to pull out some wins.

“It was a great experience for me to be a part of a national-caliber event and bring back those experiences locally to help develop our kids in the Richmond area.”

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Meanwhile, acac-Richmond will play host to a pair of prestigious tournaments in April.

The first one is the Mid-Atlantic sectional men’s and women’s open indoor championships April 13-15. Entries close April 9.

That’s followed by the Mercedes-Benz Greater Richmond Mixed Doubles championships April 19-20. Entries close April 15. There will be divisions for 7.0, 8.0 and 9.0 (combined ratings between the two players). Kinder is hoping  for 100 entries this year.

To enter online, click on the adult tennis tab.

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