Tennis is touted as a game for everyone. Not only does this mean the inclusion of parents and grandparents, the family concept also involves brothers and sisters. With all of the programs developed and organized by the Southern California Tennis Association (SCTA), it would indeed be rare if there were occasions when family members were not involved in an activity.
Glen Meloy, a teaching professional at Rancho San Clemente Tennis and Fitness Club has set, what seems to be an industry standard. This past Junior Team Tennis season, he coached the San Clemente Six Terminetters, a 12 Intermediate team from the club, which featured three sets of siblings.
“The team consisted of five girls and one boy,” Meloy said. “George Hakopian, a seven-year-old, was the only boy and he played with his sister Grace, who is ten-years-old. Sisters, Sydney and Kaia Wolfe, a nine and an eleven-year-old combination, were part of the group. So were Brooke and Sydney Donovan, who are eleven and twelve year-old sisters.”
Ken Grassel, who organizes Junior Team Tennis, one of the SCTA’s fastest growing programs, admitted, “I would venture to say that this team is very unique. I know we have had random siblings on the same team, but for an entire team to made up of three sets of siblings and do so well in their local league and make the Section Championships is a rare occurrence.”
Meloy chimed in with more background, “I had been giving private lessons to the Wolfes and Hakopians since early 2013. The Donovan’s began working with me in the middle of the same year. All of the siblings were also attending the Steve Johnson Tennis Academy, which is based at the club.
“In 2013, Kaia (Wolfe) and Grace (Hakopian) played up on one of my 14s teams. George and Sydney Wolfe weren’t quite ready to play up that much, and I didn’t have any teams in their age group. By 2014, the Donovan’s were onboard. The youngsters, Sydney and George, were making great strides and challenging some of the older kids at the academy, so I felt there was an interesting mix for a 12 Intermediate team.”
Having members of a family on the same team requires the management skills of a trained psychologist, the flexibility of an acrobat and a grasp of a youngsters’ almost ever-changing mindset. Heidi Stryker, the Junior Team Tennis Coordinator in Orange County, described Meloy saying, “Glen is an awesome coach.”
The modest Meloy offered, “I was lucky. They are a great group of kids. I treated them all as individuals, and let them know that they have a pretty special thing going [by] being on a team of siblings. I also remind them that can push each other to get better and better in the years to come.
“Typically, the older siblings, were better, however, the younger ones were hot on their heels, occasionally challenging the older siblings.”
There were, which isn’t in the least surprising, challenges to face. “It wasn’t all easy, though,” Meloy pointed out. “During the Spring 2014 season, we came in third in our flight, and toward the end of the competition, we had some friction between the players especially in the doubles. So I started tweaking the lineup, having siblings play together more. I wasn’t sure if they we’re going to play together again for the Fall 2014 Season, but they pulled together and we took first place in our flight, and got a wild card to Section Championships where we placed third.”
The situation was made even better by what can often be destructive to the team dynamic. “Once again, I was lucky,” Meloy said. “I had a great group of parents who were all on board. They basically told me to, ‘do what you do’.”
The phrase, “one and done” is most often applied to intercollegiate basketball, but in the case of the San Clemente Six Terminetters, it also holds true. When asked if the players would be on the same team in the next Junior Team Tennis season, Meloy said, “Unfortunately, they will not be. Sydney Donovan and Kaia Wolfe are moving up to a 14 Satellite team. Brooke Donovan and Sydney Wolfe will move to a 14 Intermediate team, and the Hakopians are planning to focus on singles tournaments.”
Looking back on the experience, Meloy happily concluded, “I want to applaud the players and the parents for their great efforts. In Junior Team Tennis, you need a minimum of six players to play a match without defaulting any lines. I’ve had other teams with eight to ten players and not everyone could play so we ended up defaulting lines. This team only had six players, and in two seasons, they never missed a match or defaulted lines. This is very rare. Everyone involved did a great job. It was a very unique team.”
Siblings needn’t be in competition with each other; they can compete for each other. And Glen Meloy has proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Look for a fresh examination of tennis topics at “Mark Thoughts”