Tennis program teaches discipline, builds community

Andrew Dias/ Contributing Writer

The tennis courts tucked within mangroves are sporting an after-school program for kids, and the coach wants University students to get involved.

The Biscayne Bay Campus tennis courts, adjacent to the Chaplain School of Hospitality and Tourism Management building, are home to the Tom Fowkes Tennis Fitness Camp.

Tom Fowkes, coach and creator of the program, gives tennis lessons to grade schoolers during the week and offers free lessons to children on Sundays.

“We’re just trying to have fun and build a community,” says Fowkes.

Fowkes and five other coaches held fitness sessions for 30 kids, in addition to a round robin tournament at BBC late last summer.

This season, lessons for grade schoolers began in August and will run until Dec. 20.

Programs are divided into three categories: “Pee Wee Tennis,” for children under 6 years old; “Satellite,” for kids over 7 years old that have beginner or intermediate skills; and “Tournament Bound” for children over 10 years old with advanced skills.

“It develops them physically, emotionally and academically,” says Neil Hanson, parent of two sons in the competitive-level sessions. “Children need a lot of practice to develop good discipline.”

Fowkes now invites University students and faculty members to volunteer between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday to help coach children in the community.

However, the Recreation Center will be hosting an event  for University members who wish to compete.

On Saturday, Oct. 4, the BBC Rec Open Tennis event will take place at the BBC tennis courts between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., providing a doubles tennis tournament for University students, faculty and staff.

Particpants can register as individuals or in teams at

Fowkes will also be offering weekday morning classes for FIU students and faculty, starting at $10 a session.

“Right now we’re trying to introduce ourselves to the community and get to know the students and staff,” says Fowkes.

BBC Campus Recreation recently renovated three of its tennis courts.

Last year, the courts were painted electric blue and light green, matching the official Miami Open Tennis courts, and a pantherized “FIU Campus Recreation” net was placed around on the fences.

Elias Bardawil, director of BBC Campus Recreation, says an order has been placed to renovate the remaining courts, which will take about six weeks to be completed.

The courts are open every day for University students to use for free, as well as others in the community.

“It’s a game that you can play when you’re eight or 80,” Fowkes says. “Tennis teaches you life lessons through competition.”

Participants will get a chance to meet other players who may be interested in forming a tennis club.

Eventually, Fowkes says he wants to form a club and register to compete in the United States Tennis Association.

“The school is trying to build a world-class facility and we’re trying to build a world-class program,” said Fowkes.