Samuel and Riley Webb started playing competitive tennis last year for the same reason. Their mother, Elizabeth Webb, encouraged them to try out for the Mount Pleasant High tennis team, which she coaches, to help fill a depleted roster.
But the brothers’ aspirations have evolved much differently from one another since they picked up their racquets last fall.
Riley, now a rising senior, wanted to improve enough to hold his own in the Tigers’ lineup. Samuel, who will enter 10th grade, has become much more committed to tennis and hopes to play in college.
Supporting each of their interests is AMP Tennis, the program based at Concord’s Les Myers Park that caters to junior players by hosting various levels of instruction and tournaments. The program is endorsed by Concord’s Parks and Recreation Department.
AMP director Chad Oxendine, a USTA high performance certified coach, coaches players of all ages and aspirations including Samuel, who practices about 16 hours a week and plays in local tournaments, and Riley who may show up to hit balls once or twice a week.
“Chad brings tennis to the average, ordinary person,” said Elizabeth Webb, who is also Mount Pleasant’s girls coach. “I used to think tennis was an elite thing. Clearly it is a passion for him.”
Much of AMP’s instruction happens through its academy program, which is broken down by age groups starting with 5-6-year-old beginner Twinkle Stars and extends to the elite high school aged Tournament Stars, whose play is geared towards USTA tournament competition.
Academy enrollment and fees are divided into four seasons of play. The Summer Academy runs through August.
Because some players participate on a drop-in basis, Oxendine doesn’t have an exact number of current players. He estimates that he and his assistant instructors have a current roster of 75 to 100 players.
In the summer, AMP also hosts a high school doubles league in which players are matched with different partners each time they play. Samuel and Riley Webb are among the 20 doubles league players.
Having started last November, Samuel has been a faithful academy participant. He took time off in the spring to concentrate on the high school season but has ramped up his academy training and tournament play since May.
Samuel usually plays in tournaments designated for his L6 skill level, which is considered to be a beginner division. Until this point, Samuel’s tournament involvement has been limited to those hosted by AMP.
Rising Concord High sophomore Andrea Brenk has been playing with AMP for more than four years. She figures she wins as often as she loses as she competes in the local high school league and USTA L4 tournaments around the Charlotte region.
“I definitely get a lot of experience,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of friends and he has made me a better player.”
Many of AMP’s tournaments, which are sanctioned by USTA, are held in the spring. AMP held an L6 tournament on June 27, which included age groups as young as 8-and-younger. Such young players play Short Court tennis, in which the playing surface dimensions are smaller than a regular size court.
The highest level of play in any AMP tournament is L3. It ranges in participation from 30 to 170 players. Matches are also held at Frank Liske Park, the Sportscenter and local high schools.
In addition to Concord, Oxendine travels to courts in Albemarle and Locust to provide instruction. AMP also offers adult play on Monday evenings.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.