They smile, laugh and joke around as they begin warming up. Their sneakers squeak as they do jumping jacks. They lunge, squat and stretch. They’re not joking by the end of their cardio session – they’re gasping for air. But they’re still smiling. It’s time to grab the racquets.
On Saturday, more than 20 members of the St. Thomas University tennis club laced up their sneakers at the Abony Family Tennis Centre in Fredericton for their second session as a group.
Club founder Ali Ponte has been playing tennis since he was a young boy. His dad handed him a racquet at the age of six, and he’s been playing since. Now a second year student at St. Thomas, the Venezuelan native is sharing his passion with his fellow students.
“One of my friends from the [Abony] tennis club is from UNB, and they actually have a club at UNB,” Ponte said. “I wondered why there wasn’t a tennis group at St. Thomas.”
Ponte decided to pitch the idea to Santiago Chavez, the president of the St. Thomas Student Union. Chavez liked the idea, and gave Ponte the go ahead.
“It has been a tremendous success,” Ponte said. “Our first event we had around 25 people.”
Ponte says the group is a social club and anyone can join. It features a variety of skill levels: while some players have a lot of experience, others are just learning the ropes.
Sunny Hasan is a first year student at St. Thomas. He hasn’t been playing tennis for long, but says Ponte makes everyone feel welcome at their practice sessions.
“We’re having good practices thanks to our coach, Ali,” he said.
Only 12 people have paid for their memberships so far, but Ponte is optimistic the club will gain popularity quickly. He was able to work out a deal with the Abony Family Tennis Centre so students only need to pay $20 for their membership, and an additional $3 per session. Usually an hour on the court costs around $20.
Once the overall skill level of the group rises, Ponte hopes to add a competitive component to the recreational club. His end goal is to participate in tournaments against other university teams.
They still have a lot to learn, but Ponte is pleased with the enthusiasm his players have shown. He’s happy to be out on the court sharing his passion with fellow students.
“It’s a good chance to get to know people and expand your network,” he said.
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