August 12 - 19, 1998

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Hartford Becoming a Tennis Powerhouse

by Andy Hart

If you thought tennis was a game dominated by rich suburbanites, better take a look at the results from this year's Nutmeg Games, held in Hartford just this past week. Of the 21 medals awarded in the statewide competition, Hartford kids won 11 of them (see list below).

The youngsters are members of the Greater Hartford Youth Tennis Association (GHYTA) which was recently named as the Top Grassroots Tennis Program in New England. That honor earned a team of players from the GHYTA a trip to the National Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, to take on the Top Eastern Region Grassroots Team, which was from New York City, last Tuesday, August 4 (see results below).

The grassroots award is given by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to the local program in a given region with the highest number of USTA ranked players, said GHYTA Coach Carlos Aldave. The GHYTA, which is an outgrowth of the Bulkeley High School Tennis Club, currently has 15 ranked players, he added, probably more than any other town in the greater Hartford area with the exception of Simsbury.

Aldave said the GHYTA's success is due to providing them with a year-round competitive environment and frequent play in USTA regulated tournaments. He also said the success of some players has inspired greater efforts by others. "They see a kid from their neighborhood doing well and they think, If he can do it, so can I," he said.

The GHYTA, which is sponsored by the Hartford Department of Recreation and the USTA, currently serves about 70 city youngsters ages 6-18. Aldave said the group include kids from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds including Russian, Puerto Rican, South American, Portuguese, Romanian, Hungarian, Bosinian, Polish, Ethiopian, Sudanese, Vietnamese and Cambodian.

The group practices at Goodwin Park during the warm weather months and plays indoors at the East Hartford Racquet Club during the winter. This summer, practice sessions for advanced players are held at Goodwin on Monday and Wednesday evenings while clinics for beginner and intermediate players are held at the park Monday through Friday from 1:30-2:30 pm. The GHYTA also has a program for Toddlers, which is held at Columbus Park.

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