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Ponte Vedra's Fellows Named USTA Florida Volunteer of the Month

February 22, 2012 04:23 PM
helga tan fellows and familyIn a little over two years as a volunteer Jr. Team Tennis league captain, Helga Tan Fellows of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., has become a magnet in her area for very young and beginner children picking up a racquet and trying team tennis.
 
The USTA Jr. Team Tennis league extends to an 18-and-under advanced division, but it's the 12-under, 10-under and 8-under beginner children that Fellows has a passion for, to the point of recruiting area children who have never stepped on a court.
 
"I am a big fan of the Jr. Team Tennis program, and this is the reason I find myself recruiting kids that are learning to play tennis, and helping out with the league," Fellows says. "My son learned to compete under this program and our experience was very good.  I think the kids learn the game well, they learn to compete as a team and also as an individual. It also provides a great initial experience to prepare for tournament competition. Many of our kids have moved from Jr. Team Tennis to play local Grand Prix [rookie tournaments] and USTA tournaments."
 
All age groups from beginner to advanced, whether they won their local championship or not, are invited each summer to the USTA Florida Jr. Team Tennis Section Championships. Fellows considers her greatest accomplishment last summer when she took a 12-under beginners team to the Florida Section Championships at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach.
 
"It was just eight kids interested in participating, and a combination of kids from a few of our teams," Fellows says. "The kids had a blast. We came in second [in the 12-under Beginner Division] and lost by just two games, but the experience for the kids was fantastic. It was truly a team effort and all the kids competed very well and helped each other bring out their best."
 
The Jr. Team Tennis league promotes sportsmanship and working together as a team. Fellows marveled at the team camaraderie of the beginners, who from their reaction after the section-level championships one couldn't tell whether they won or lost.
 
"It went to a third-set super-tiebreaker for the entire match, and we lost 15-17, and the match point probably shifted 7-8 times," Fellows recalled. "The atmosphere and team synergy was incredible! At the end it did not matter we lost...it was just great competition and all the kids were having a blast. The kids in my team and the opponents too congratulated both mixed doubles teams and were very complimentary to all of them. As a captain, and mom, I loved how they all showed great sportsmanship."
 
This past season Fellows captained and mentored 40 children on six teams, five out of her own club, The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, and one "satellite" team comprised of children who do not belong to a private club but live in the Jacksonville Beaches area.

"Helga is the type of member that all tennis pros wish they had," said Ponte Vedra Inn & Club Director of Tennis Mike Leach. "She is selfless, dedicated, knowledgeable, organized and incredibly kind. In her dealings with all parents and their juniors, Helga is sought-after for advice and guidance. She remains singularly committed to the goal of promoting tennis in the way that the USTA has formulated for juniors. We are very fortunate to have her at our club."

On Fellows' teams, winning often takes a back seat to participation and teamwork.
 
"We rotate all lines and kids to allow everyone to play and participate in both singles and doubles," Fellows says. "Therefore, we may miss winning the division as this strategy does not always yield the best scores. Needless to say, we love giving everyone the opportunity to play so either way we feel we win."
 
Fellows is quick to add "this is by no means just me," singling out parents, teaching pros at her home club, and Jacksonville-area Jr. Team Tennis Coordinator Diana Gardner. "What drives all of us to do this is the enthusiasm we get from the kids," Fellows says. "The kids simply love to participate and play and they look forward to the matches and meeting other kids from different clubs all over Jacksonville."

"Helga is a delight to work with," Gardner said. "While having the kids' interests and needs at heart, she also has the ability to find and guide new parent team captains. We are very fortunate to have her involved with youth tennis in our area."
 
USTA Florida congratulates Helga Tan Fellows as the February 2012 Volunteer of the Month for her tireless efforts to introduce the children of the Jacksonville Beaches are to, and build a love for, the game of tennis.
 
ABOUT HELGA

Birthplace: Puerto Rico
Family Members: Dave Fellows (husband), Jake Fellows (son)
Favorite Movie: Pride and Prejudice
Favorite Food: Japanese, Italian
Favorite Travel: Salzburg, Austria
Favorite Shot: Serve
 
My earliest tennis memory was..."Playing in college by pure luck. My wonderful college volleyball coach was also the tennis coach. She had a star line up on her tennis team but was short two players to have a full roster. She needed to get two more players to avoid forfeits and being disqualified but did not worry about the level of those two players since her team was amazing. So she recruited her two setters from the volleyball team and we ended up winning the season. Needless to say, we got hooked on tennis and played ever since!"
 
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be..."My son, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal...my son Jake would have a heck of time playing against or along with those two!"
 
When I am not playing tennis I am..."Researching on renewable energy business opportunities to support charity organizations and school. Also, taking care of the family activities and busy schedule (hubby, son, dog, cat, guinea pigs)!"
 
Best ever tennis memory..."Playing nationals in Las Vegas with a team from the Caribbean very early when I started to play tennis."
 
I like to volunteer in tennis because..."It is all about helping the kids learn and enjoy the sport. It is wonderful to see how they all progress through their involvement with the Jr. Team Tennis program and how much fun they have during the competition. Many of the kids started very young and they have consistently returned to play every season. It is very rewarding to see them come back and enjoy the sport so much. Many of these kids are now actively competing in USTA tournaments and I am sure will enjoy tennis for as long as they can play or watch!"
 


 
 

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