David Cooper, 21, grew up across the street from the tennis facility at Hollytree Country Club.
At 12 years old, he enrolled in one of Hollytree’s tennis programs to pass the time after he came home from school, learning most of his skills from assistant professional James Daly.
Now, Cooper attends the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he competes in Division I men’s college tennis for the Blazers. He practices four hours every day.
Although he’s 600 miles away from his hometown, he’s never forgotten his roots.
“Every time I come back home from school, I come here (to Hollytree) to practice,” Cooper said.
Cooper practices in Hollytree’s High Intensity Tennis, or HIT, program, under Daly’s instruction.
The program is designed for Championship and Super Championship level players, or regular participants who maintain 32 ZAT (Zonal Advancement Tournaments) points.
Daly taught Cooper through the program, which enrolls students more than 12 years old, and as Cooper’s personal trainer.
“(The program) is just practice and trying to refine skills,” Daly said. “It’s pretty much just trying to perfect your target and perfect your consistency, and trying to do it all a little better, faster and stronger.”
He has taught at Hollytree’s tennis facility for five years, where he helps students become competitive tennis players, who compete in tournaments at least once a month.
“A lot of what we do here is footwork and consistency and just trying to give them some skills to go out there and win a match,” Daly said. “We have at least two to three every year that go on to play in college.”
At first, Cooper was not a competitive tennis player.
“I enjoyed it for a little bit but I wasn’t really competitive,” he said. “Then I started losing to kids when I started playing better kids and I realized I needed to do more.”
Cooper joined the HIT program at 15 years old to improve his skills, eventually deciding to play college tennis.
“There’s a thrill (to competing),” he said. “I enjoy seeing who’s better and putting my all, seeing if I’m better than the other person across the court.”
Unlike Cooper, Lilly Deatherage, 12, has been competitive in the sport since she started playing at 4 years old.
Her family has loved the sport for years, and her father was the first to introduce her to the sport on Hollytree’s court.
Ms. Deatherage aspires to play in Division I women’s college tennis.
“I’ll keep doing this my whole life,” she said.
Jim Sciarro, director of tennis at Hollytree, said the beauty of tennis is the fact that it’s a lifetime sport.
“We’ve got 4-year-olds, up to 85 years old, out here playing tennis weekly,” he said. “If kids start out playing tennis, they can do it all their life. But if kids start off playing soccer or gymnastics or cheerleading, I mean how many 60-year-old women do you see out doing cheerleading?”
Sciarro has been at Hollytree for 20 years. He picked up the sport at 6 years old, played college tennis for Sam Houston State University, and taught at River Oaks Country Club in Houston for about seven years, before coming to Hollytree.
“I just loved it, just like these kids,” Sciarro said. “It’s good exercise, it’s a fun sport, it’s an individual sport and it’s a team sport.”
He said he thinks people enjoy tennis because of how easy it is to play.
“You can call one friend and come out here and play for 30 minutes or you can play for hours,” Sciarro said. “It’s not that easy to go play golf because playing golf takes a long time to play or playing a team sport, you have to have a bunch of people to play.”
Tom de Boer, 18, said he enjoys one-on-one matches and how personal the sport is.
“A lot of time it’s just you on the court,” he said. “Even when you have a coach out there to help you out, it’s just all you.”
De Boer said his parents and brother are also active players.
“I used to just go out and hit with my mom and my dad,” he said. “I got more serious and would train three to four hours a day during the summer and started to compete in tournaments around Texas.”
De Boer played varsity tennis for All Saints Episcopal School, where he helped the school make it to the TAPPS 4A state semifinals.
He enjoys practicing at Hollytree because of how dedicated the coaching staff is toward the students.
“The coaching staff really wants to see us get better,” de Boer said. “It makes them feel good when they see us improving and they enjoy having the kids come out here, wanting to get better.”
(NOT SURE IF YOU’D WANT TO INCLUDE THIS)
Hollytree’s tennis facilities will offer three 10-week programs for kids ages 4 to 18 starting Tuesday.
Mighty Mites is designated for kids 4 to 8 years old. Prices range from $78 to $145 for Hollytree Country Club members and $96 to $160 for non-members.
Honor Squad is designated for kids 8 to 12 years old.
Tournament Prep is designed for students who are able to play full-court tennis.
Prices for both Honor Squad and Tournament Prep range from $105 to $195 for Hollytree Country Club members and $128 to $215 for non-members.
For more information, call 903-581-7788.