History of the Anguilla Tennis Academy
The Anguilla Tennis Academy (ATA) was established in 1996 by its founder and president, Mr. Mitchelle Lake. His dream of bringing tennis to the island of Anguilla began while attending Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina as a sports scholarship recipient. He realized that he was afforded an opportunity to receive his higher education free of charge based on the fact that he excelled at tennis and wanted other Anguillians to be able to do the same. His enthusiasm and drive garnered him generous support from international companies such as Black Entertainment Television “BET” and American Airlines. On July 8th 1996 the ATA held its first annual summer camp. As the years progressed, the ATA summer camp became an established summer activity averaging 150 students strong.
In September 2001, the ATA took its next step to becoming an established institution by expanding its tennis programs to add an initiative called the After-School Program (ASP). The ASP started on the tennis court at the James Ronald Webster’s Park with about 25 children aged 4 through 16. Soon after, the tennis court on the Ronald Webster Park was flooded with children each afternoon for each age group in the program.
In the early years of the ASP, coaches had to be brought in to manage and run the program as local coaches were not available. The first international coach of the ASP was Rick Laundry of Massachusetts, USA. He was replaced by coach Joey Hall from Tennessee, USA. When Joey resigned, Marvin Hazell –a product of the Anguilla Tennis Academy took over the program. The program produced some good local talent who were also interested in pursuing tennis as careers. Denny Derrick and Vallan Hodge were graduates of the program who worked as assistant coaches and are now Tennis Directors of two major resorts on the island, namely Cuisinart Resort and Spa, and Viceroy Anguilla respectively. Rodney Ross from Trinidad and Matt Cooper from Atlanta, Georgia, USA also played a helpful role in the growth of the ASP during Marvin’s absence to further his studies in the UK.
In 2005 Jason Allen, a former visiting coach of the summer camp, came back to the island and was appointed the Executive Director of the Anguilla Tennis Academy. In November of the same year CuisinArt Resort & Spa became the first resort on the island to have its tennis facilities managed by the ATA. In May of 2008 the Anguilla Tennis Academy had the official opening of its facilities in Blowing Point. In January 2009, Marvin Hazell, upon completion of his studies in the UK, succeeded Jason Allen to become the Executive Director of the Anguilla Tennis Academy.
Over the years the ATA has made a name for itself as a leader of tennis on the island of Anguilla and the region as a whole. The ATA continues to reach out to the children in the community with some participants starting at the tender age of three. The ATA has also succeeded in assisting top Anguillian players with scholarship opportunities to pursue a higher education in the USA. Keithroy Proctor is the most recent recipient of a college scholarship and will be graduating in December of 2011. Congratulations Keithroy!! The programme continues to employ its graduates as coaches throughout the island. Additionally, the ATA now manages the operations of the tennis facilities at Viceroy Anguilla, Cuisinart Resort and Spa, Malliouhana Resort and Spa, Covecastles, and many of the private villas on the island.
Anguilla Tennis Academy goes from strength to strength
by Brenda Carty
The Anguilla Tennis Academy (ATA) that started with a summer camp in 1996 has progressed to the present with a state-of-the-art building and six lighted tennis courts that provide facilities and coaching for young and old. The primary goal of the ATA is to expose children to the joys, discipline and rigour of the lifelong sport of tennis where they can acquire technical skills, experience ideal sportsmanship, and develop a strong sense of community. Since its inception more than three thousand (3,000) children have been introduced to the game of tennis.
History of the ATA
Mitchelle Lake is the Founder of the ATA and its current President. As a young man at college, on a tennis scholarship, he decided to give back to the community and give others in Anguilla the opportunity to learn the game of tennis and benefit as he had. In 1996 he started a summer camp for tennis. This was held on the two courts at the Webster’s Park and attracted a number of children from aged four to seventeen. As the years went by the camp grew and more and more children wanted to learn the game. Some of the resort courts were used to accommodate more children and this was the case especially in the third week of the camp when visiting coaches and students from the USA participated.
As time went on, Mitch realised that more courts were needed for the children and he had the dream of constructing a tennis academy in Anguilla. He managed to acquire six acres of land from the government at Blowing Point and started his massive fund raising efforts to realise his dream. A Board was created to assist in the fundraising and organising. The four major sponsors of the Academy were the Anguilla Government, National Bank of Anguilla (NBA), Caribbean Commercial Bank, (CCB), and Anguilla Social Security Board. In addition, funds were raised through the selling of bricks and many overseas donations.
On May 23, 2008 the new facility, including a large building and six tennis courts were opened. It was described as a ‘significant milestone’ and a ‘dream come true’ by President and Founder, Mitchelle Lake. The facility was designed by famous New York architect Myron Goldfinger and Jeff Taylor & Associates of White Plains, New York. The building has locker rooms for members, locker rooms for male and female players, a conference room, offices, pro shop, palm court and three patios on both sides. There are three tennis courts on each side of the building.
At the opening, Lake expressed sincere gratitude to all who gave their time and financial resources to make it possible. “Your efforts and contributions have helped to build a tennis centre that will undoubtedly be a land mark of the Caribbean and a symbol of national pride,” he said. A special presentation was made to Eric Martineau who was described as the Pioneer of Tennis in Anguilla and who in fact taught Mitch many of the aspects of the game.
Programmes and Improvements
Since the opening of the facility, tennis programmes for children have continued on a daily basis and each summer a camp is held for three weeks. The ATA aims to develop healthy minds and provide educational opportunities for children through the sport of tennis. The academy was founded on the principle of using tennis as a vehicle to reach and empower children and to equip them with the skills and knowledge to become responsible citizens in the community. No child is denied the opportunity to participate.
One of the recent improvements at the Academy are enlarged photographs taken by William Boyd displayed on the walls of the Academy, that depict the children, the facility and the coaches in the After School Programme. The photographs were also put together into a coffee table book and a smaller size book. Boyd said that the book is a reflection of his belief in supporting the youth. “It gave me great pride to capture the energy and spirit of these young people in action as they learn the sport of tennis,” he commented. “I dedicate the pictures in the book in part to the youth of Anguilla. The youth is the future and my hope is they will continue to realize their dreams as they choose their path in life.” Mitch praised the work of Boyd saying that he truly captured his own vision through the lens of his camera and they are now displayed for all to see.
International Tennis Federation (ITF)
In July 2010 Anthony Jeremiah of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) spent five days in Anguilla assessing the ATA and meeting with government and tourism officials. Lake said that one of the primary goals of the ATA is to become a member of the ITF. Jeremiah, who travels around the Caribbean to identify talent for the ITF, described the ATA facility as the best in the Caribbean and Central America. He said that he hopes in the future when Anguilla becomes a member that ITF events can be held here. The island will also benefit through the ITF junior programmes, training camps and travel grants.
When asked about the progress, future plans and achievements of the ATA, Lake said that there have been significant strides in the past three months both to the physical appearance of the facility and its programmes. The building has been upgraded and locker rooms, shower stalls and the conference rooms are all accessible to persons participating in the membership programme. “In addition we have launched our individual, family and villa membership programme,” Lake commented, “This initiative will allow all Anguillians, residents and visitors to the island to become partners with the ATA and enjoy the many benefits and a healthy lifestyle at our world class facility. I trust that persons will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and help us to continue shaping lives and building a future through the sport of tennis. My main focus now is to raise the estimated US$1.5 million needed to complete the 2500 seat stadium facility, the final phase of the project. I strongly believe that once this feat is achieved, Anguilla’s economy will benefit from the many international tournaments and entertainment events that will be hosted at the stadium facility.” Anguilla’s children are certainly lucky to have such a great Tennis Academy and one day a champion will emerge from the island.