by Katie Hetrick
For a city with few tennis facilities, have you ever wondered why the Benicia High School girls’ and boys’ tennis teams now experience undefeated seasons and frequently go on to win their Solano County Athletic Conference? As with any sports dynasty, a variety of factors are important, but top on that list is grooming and growing a consistent pipeline of competitive players.
“About ten years ago we started a junior tennis program,” explains Jojo Donetti, Benicia Community Tennis Association (BCTA) junior tennis director.
“The programs used to only be Sunday afternoons in the spring. Now these programs are year-round – spring and summer – and over longer periods of time.”
In may be a coincidence, but as BCTA developed and expanded their programs, the Benicia High School began to experience consistently strong girls and boys tennis teams.
“We’ve been fortunate lately because we have the choice of multiple players with outstanding skills,” says Lisa Burton, head coach of the Benicia High School girls’ tennis team. “Having a deep team that extends beyond your top ranked players is an incredible luxury, but one that we have in Benicia.
“We’ve got a lot of talented tennis professionals in our area, but these clinics introduce young people to a sport they may not have otherwise had an opportunity to try. They catch that tennis bug, then, next thing we know we’re seeing many of them compete in high school and beyond,” continues Burton.
It may all seem too good to be true, but it’s really no wonder when you understand the unique set of skills employed by the person leading these camps.
Calvin McCullough, a.k.a. “Coach Mac,” a United States Professional Tennis Registry Level One Pro and a United States National Tennis Academy instructor directs and teaches the active curriculum that combines both physical skills and psychological growth. His students benefit from his unique experience as a highly decorated U.S. Air Force veteran as well as his two decades of experience instructing players of all ages and levels.
“My daughter has worked with Coach Mac for nearly 7 years,” states father Brian Hitomi. “He is a truly a giving man who is dedicated to helping kids learn and love the game of tennis and it shows in the results.”
Coach Mac understands that there is no one way to teach anything, and tennis, like any sport, is no different.
“My students are encouraged to learn in their own way and at their own pace,” explains Coach Mac. “There is no “one size fits all” routine. I insist that the methods both I and my assistants use compliment each child’s individual style.
“I believe that is one of the reasons why our students grow to love this game and will either continue to play competitively or recreationally well after camp ends. It’s truly a lifetime sport.”
Interested in participating in one or more of BCTA’s week-long clinics? Beginners through intermediate and advanced players are invited to participate. The camps run weekly from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. through August 5 and are held at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School in Vallejo.