FAU Owls

#BestDayEver – Championship Saturday

That’s a big trophy!

Saturday, April 15, would mark the end of Season 15 of youth tennis with All American Team Tennis. And like we do every season, we held a big event that we like to call Championship Saturday. For those of you who are new to AATT, Championship Saturday is our “playoffs”; it’s the tournament at the end of a long season. Kinda like the NCAA Championships, but for little leaguers. It’s where our players, after a lot of trial-and-error, compete to find out who’s #1, in addition to rewarding our players for what they’ve accomplished during the season. Beginning with Season 14, Championship Saturday would also feature a visit from a highly-ranked University Tennis Team. Last season it was the Keiser Seahawks. This season it would be the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls! But more on that later.

During the course of the season, the League (me) kept track of a number of stats: W/L, Serves Held/Broken, and Total Points. We use these numbers to determine things like Point Differential and Turnovers and award the players who performed the best over the course of the 10-week season. Then on Championship Saturday, the winners of the tournament are our National Champions! We save the tournament until the end the Season because too many tournaments can cause “Tournament Burnout”. One big blowout is what most people are happiest with. And isn’t that why we play sports: to have a good time?

Season 15 Award Winners

One of our season-ending awards is the Pennant. This award

That’s my squad!

is given to the #1 team over the course of the 6-week Regular season. We awarded the top 6 players with the best W/L numbers in Doubles with this award. So for Season 15, the Pennant Winners were the Knights with a record of 4-2, and the top 6 players were Amaris, Emmanuel, Michael, Esteban, Alethea, and Ava (pictured right). Now, you’re probably wondering why the players are wearing different jerseys. It’s because All American Team Tennis is all about the “Team”. And to drive home that point, each player played on a different team each week of the season. It’s a way of building Community among tennis players. And isn’t that what sports are all about: Community?

MVP, Ava, and her Dad, Coach Daniel

Next up would be the MVP.  The MVP is the #1 player on the #1 team. This season our MVP was Ava. Now, this is where all of the stats come in as Ava would lead the League in Doubles wins, Buckeye Leafs, Point Differential, and Turnovers.

  • Doubles wins: 7 – 3 more than #2
  • Singles wins: 4 – 2 behind #1
  • Buckeye Leafs: 28 – 3 more than #2
  • Point Differential: +47 – Tied for #1
  • Turnovers: +9 – 2 more than #2

And her award for being the MVP was a backpack; which is symbolic of how she carried her team on her back. Get it?

It was the biggest lollipop I could find

Next, we recognized the Sportsmanship Award winners. This is an award where Coach Ken chooses the players who best exemplify the spirit of All American Team Tennis. AATT is about building Community among its players. Creating an atmosphere of camaraderie, teamwork, communication, and making friends. It is built on the pillars of Sportsmanship which are: Fairness, being Gracious, and Respect for others. I watched the players as they interacted with each other and looked for the ones who were kind, considerate, and just plain nice. I look for smiles and high-fives and listen for how the players talk to each other. For Season 15, the players who best exemplified the spirit of the “team” were Esteban, Rubie, and Alethea.

Season 15 National Champions, the Owls

And we’ve saved the best for last: the National Champions! This one is very straight forward: the winners on Championship Saturday are the National Champions (I told you it was simple). Since each team has players from ages 6 to 13, we would play two courts of doubles, one for ages 6-10, and another for ages 11-13 to determine a winner. The total games won would be added together and the team with the higher score wins. On this day, Championship Saturday, the Owls would come out on top by a score of 12-7. Isn’t it ironic that OUR Owls would come out on top on the same day the REAL Owls were in attendance?! Crazy!

The Best Team in Palm Beach County

Now for the really exciting part: the FAU Owls, the Greatest Tennis Players in Palm Beach County came to our tennis courts to inspire the next generation of tennis player! It may not seem like a big deal to many of you but considering tennis tournaments only come here once a year (pitiful), having a Home Town Team is gigantic! The FAU Owls are a Div. 1 tennis team in the Sun Conference. On their schedule are teams like Central Florida, Old Dominion, and the Miami Hurricanes. The Owls would finish the season at 17-6, going 11-1 at Home. Next up for the Owls are the Sun Conference Championships in Tennessee, April 21-23.

The reason why a visit from FAU is such a big deal is because “celebrity matters”; and everyone knows about Florida Atlantic University. Their football stadium hosts the Boca Raton Bowl on ESPN each year. And the school is making headlines not only with their sports teams, but with their academics, too. And as a Div. 1 university, the FAU Owls are verifiably the BEST group of tennis players in Palm Beach County. Yes, Serena Williams lives in Palm Beach Gardens, but let’s be real: she doesn’t play here and she’ll never come to Palm Springs… so who cares. On the other hand, the FAU Owls are the Home Team and play all of their Home games in Boca Raton. It’s true their players come from Florida, Spain, Brazil, and France. But they’re big, they’re strong, they’re fast, and they’re Local. I can only imagine what would happen if there were a Professional tennis team playing here in Palm Beach County. What would it mean to the fanbase? Maybe THEN tennis could compete with other sports in terms of popularity. I’m being serious!

That’s Coach Ken on the left
I GOT IT!!!

After putting on a show for the fans, and signing a few autographs, Coach Ken would bring EVERYONE onto the court to play a game called Caterpillar. It’s a volley game, with six players at a time, rotating extra players in and out. You should have felt the energy on the courts. The kids were excited, the parents were cheering, FAU was getting into it, it was the BEST DAY EVER! How many people can say they “played Caterpillar with FAU”? Hmm? It was an experience our players will never forget. And hopefully enough motivation to keep them playing, and watching, tennis… at least until next season.

Field Trips and Championship Saturday happen every season but only the last two have featured a visit from a Special Guest. It takes time to develop that kind of relationship which is why the majority of kids would rather play basketball and soccer than tennis. And why, overall, Americans would rather watch football and baseball than tennis. Tennis tournaments aren’t around long enough to establish themselves withing the Community. On the other hand, College teams like Florida Atlantic and Miami and Ohio State are NEVER leaving. They belong to us. They’re OUR team. Can you feel the difference?

Opportunity Awaits

There is a gold mine of tennis talent laying dormant on our College campuses. It’s time we put these players to work promoting the game; visiting schools and Parks departments, hospitals and nursing homes, signing autographs, showing people how much fun this game is to play AND to watch. Becoming a part of the Community is how fans are made. Florida Atlantic University is a part of our Community. The players and coaches live, work, and play right here in South Florida. They are not playing for themselves, but rather for all of us. That kind of give-and-take is why I proudly wear the colors of the FAU Owls. #OwlsUp

GO TEAM! 

Youth Tennis is Better With Field Trips

Check out that backhand!

On Sunday February 26, players from the All American Team Tennis youth tennis league would travel to Boca Raton to witness the Florida Atlantic University Owls men’s tennis team take on the Florida A&M Rattlers. Players had high expectations for this field trip and the FAU Owls did not disappoint. Having personally attended a number of tennis matches in the past, Coach Ken was prepared for an afternoon of college tennis. Armed with his trusty Shade Tech canopies and Coleman portable propane grill, he would escort his players onto the hallowed grounds of the brand new FAU Tennis Complex. Ok… maybe ‘hallowed’ is a bit much. But it is a really nice facility!

There are a number of reasons why Field Trips are such a phenomenal part of any youth tennis program. First, College Tennis is the best and most readily available tennis product for

Doubles on Court 3

those most interested in the game. Both players and non-players can enjoy an afternoon at the local university watching some of the best players in the world. 

Next, College Tennis teams play all of their Home games at the same location. Which means you have multiple opportunities to take in a match. Compare that with the pro tour where players sweep into town once a year for a week and then they’re off to the next exotic location. As a tennis fan, it feels kind of empty when there’s no tennis going on. Fortunately, the College Tennis season is 4 months long! And it’s 6 months if you count the pre-season matches in September/October. That’s what I call a “Full” season!

We found a shady spot

Third, giving players the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company away from the tennis court strengthens the bonds they’ve built on the court. From the anticipation leading up to the field trip, to arriving at the gathering place, to driving to/from the games, to the matches themselves, field trips are fun. Plain and simple.

This field trip would feature a matchup of the Florida Atlantic Owls of Conference USA hosting the Florida A&M Rattlers of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The energy level is always high when watching FAU but things really ratcheted up when the third court of doubles would need a tiebreak to see who would take the doubles point (“Why are the doubles only one point?” you ask. We’ll talk about that later). With all of the spectators watching the action on only one court, everything felt much bigger. And when the referee took a point away from the Rattlers

Our players getting autographs from FAU players

for one of their players hitting the net with his foot, things really heated up. Fortunately, the Owls would keep their composure and hold on to win the doubles point and roll in the singles to take the match 4-0, moving their record to 9-3. The win puts Florida Atlantic in a two-way tie for second place in the Conference USA standings.

There’s much more to tennis than tournaments… and Field Trips are a big part of that. Attending a tennis match by yourself is good, but traveling with friends is what makes Field Trips so much fun. And the FAU Owls appreciate it, too.

So join us on our field trip and see what all the excitement is about!

GO TEAM!