TeamFAME tennis drills. Photo by Jennifer Carter

June marks the successful completion of the 2020 – 2021 TeamFAME after-school program. Finishing its third year at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. TeamFAME provides Newport area middle schoolers with access to tennis, academic support, and personal enrichment programs ranging from nutrition education to STEM activities. The Hall of Fame provides TeamFAME free of charge to all participants, who also benefit from the emotional support of being part of a team and a structured environment – even in a very unstructured time for the world as a whole. 

Todd Martin, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame reflected, “This school year, from hybrid, to fully remote, to in-person, the adaptations were constant. Our leaders have become incredibly nimble and have been able to really stay focused on the program goals, even while having to adapt their plans. We’ve done distance programming, provided both tech equipment and tennis equipment to help the kids thrive at home, and more.” 

Martin continued, “As a result, TeamFAME has been able to serve the kids and families in the program without any pause since the pandemic first became a factor back in March 2020. I’m incredibly proud of the staff, volunteers, and the kids for their commitment to the program, and thrilled to see constant progress in the kids, on the court and off.”

Spread out over two recent afternoons in June, more than 30 TeamFAME students put on their tennis uniforms after school and showed off their skills for a gathering of proud parents to celebrate the conclusion of a year filled with a lot of fun and learnings for all.  

One of the participating students was Millena Carapia, a rising 8th grader at Portsmouth Middle School who started with the program in its inaugural year at Thompson Middle School. 

“Before I started TeamFAME, I didn’t think much of tennis. But once I started, I knew it was the sport for me,” said Carapia. “Now, I’m looking forward to playing high school tennis and to maybe, hopefully, get a scholarship because of tennis. So, I’m going to keep working hard for that.”

The current students in the program are in 6th and 7th grade, predominately from Newport’s Thompson Middle School. This school year, the groups met in two assigned pods, creating a smaller class size for social distancing. The kids are picked up from school in the Hall of Fame’s van and each pod came for tennis and education two days per week.

TeamFAME’s community-based program is carefully structured around time for physical activity through tennis, academic support like homework support or extra tutoring, and a variety of other personal enrichment activities. In the past year, the students have participated in nutrition education classes provided by URI Snap-Ed, financial literacy lessons through Citizens Bank, STEM activities with Aquidneck Robotics, and more. 

“My favorite thing about TeamFAME is all the fun activities and all the different things we do. The coaches are so great. They help us with everything, and they’ve helped me a lot with my math,” said Gian Marcos Beltran, a rising 8th grader at Thompson Middle School. “Someday, I want to work here at the Hall of Fame.”

The fun and learning aren’t done with the end of the school year, though. Many of the students will participate in a 7-week summer session. Come this fall, TeamFAME will welcome a new class of 5th and 6th graders, and will continue serving the current students, bringing the student population to be 5th – 8th Grade. Additionally, TeamFAME hosts introductory tennis clinics throughout the community year-round, by partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of Newport County the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, Newport Parks and Rec, and other youth organizations. 

“TeamFAME is a great way to build community through tennis. The sport naturally embodies characteristics that you want to have thriving in a community – honesty, teamwork, leadership, and focus, among so many others. Through community-based tennis, we aim to attract kids to the sport at a young age, and then really help them develop as middle schoolers in the TeamFAME program,” said Marguerite Marano, a longtime Hall of Fame employee who has served as Director of TeamFAME since its launch in 2018. “Our goal is that the values they absorb in this program will serve them and ultimately those around them, well into the future.”

TeamFAME is a chapter of the National Junior Tennis & Learning Network, comprised of 250 or so similar programs across the country that utilize tennis as a vehicle to support kids in their personal growth and academic pursuits. All programs are provided free or very low cost to participants. 

TeamFAME is offered free of charge to all student participants, and the program is made possible through funds raised by the International Tennis Hall of Fame, a non-profit organization dedicated to both celebrating history and inspiring its future. Tax-deductible donations to the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s annual fund today enable TeamFAME and community-based tennis programs to continue to have a positive impact on hundreds of children throughout Newport, RI.

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Source: International Tennis Hall Of Fame

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