Rare Air Tennis Training Camp gives young players a chance to elevate game
Steamboat Springs — Most summers, Nolan Connell would have had to load his tennis gear in the car, drive several hours to the Front Range and spend money on hotel rooms and meals if he wanted to take part in a high-level tennis camp.
But this summer — with the inception of the Rare Air Tennis Training Camp at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs — things are going to change for the Steamboat Springs High School senior, who spends at least five days per week on the court honing his game.
“It’s one of the first high-level tennis camps we have ever had in Steamboat,” Connell said Thursday. “Normally, I have to travel to attend a camp at this level, so it’s nice having it here.”
Loretta Conway, business director for the Tennis Center, said she would love to keep local players at home during the summer and use the facility to draw other young players from around the county to local camps during summer.
“Steamboat has a lot to offer tennis players,” Conway said. “We want to reach outside of our town and offer players a chance to come to Steamboat Springs to train.”
Conway said the altitude is Steamboat offers players a chance to train at elevation, and the town’s active lifestyle means tennis players can jump on a bike or go hiking when they are not on the court. Eventually, Conway wants to offer both junior and adult camps in Steamboat. She also wants to make sure visitors know there is a world-class tennis facility thriving in the shadows of one of Colorado’s best ski mountains.
Conway hopes the Rare Air Tennis Training Camp, which begins July 25 at the Tennis Center, will be a hit among young players and their families.
The camp will feature 32 players, including 17 from Steamboat and 16 from out-of-town, who will take part in four days of intensive training. The event will culminate by offering participants a chance to play in the Steamboat Springs Tennis Association’s annual tournament at the end of the week.
This year’s camp will also feature Dick Gould, who served as Stanford’s head tennis coach from 1966 to 2004. Gould’s team’s won 17 NCAA team championships, and 50 of his players were named All-American. Nine others, including John McEnroe, Gene Mayer, Alex Mayer, Roscoe Tanner and Tim Mayotte, have gone on to be ranked among the top 15 in the ATP world singles rankings.
On July 23, Gould will speak to the players and parents of players enrolled in this year’s Rare Air Tennis Training Camp during a private question-and-answer session at the Steamboat Sheraton. He will also speak at special court dedication to the Swiggart Family July 23 at the STA tournament and will be the keynote speaker at the STA dinner July 24.
Conway said the Rare Air camp will not focus on technique, though the professionals who are teaching at the camp will help players with that aspect of the game, if needed. Instead, she said, this camp is designed for strong players who will primarily focus on fitness, consistency, patterns and strategy. The players will spend six hours per day, July 25 through 28, working with top professional instructors.
Coaches will include locals Bill Conway and JoJo O’Dell. Alison Swain, head women’s coach at Williams College, and Simona Bruetting, tennis professional at Colorado Athletic Club Inverness and Team Colorado coach, will also be on the staff for the camp.
As part of the camp, players will then be entered into the Steamboat Tennis Association’s annual championships, which begin July 29 and continue through the weekend.
“It will be great to see what college-level coaches are looking for and how they work,” Connell said. “I think it will let me know what to expect if I go on to play at college.”
Connell said he wants to continue playing tennis in college, adding he feels that camps such as Rare Air are key to making the right choice.
“I’m not sure if I will get the chance to play on a college team or if I will play at the club level,” Connell said. “i want to keep playing.”
But Connell said he is still not sure how the game will fit into his plans for the future. He is looking forward to the camp as a way to improve his game and continue growing as a player.
This year’s Rare Air Camp is full, but Conway said players can add their names to a waiting list; if a player is injured or can’t make it to the camp, those on the waiting list will be called. Conway also hopes the list will give her an idea of the number of players who might be interested in taking part in next year’s camp.
If demand is high enough, she said, a second week might be added.
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