Courting commitment

As the brains behind the South Philadelphia Tennis Association, Bryan Hughes touts “growth and development” as the biggest boons to playing tennis, which undoubtedly distances him from other instructors who declare a “massive forehand” and a “booming serve” as what practitioners should look to gain from their court endeavors. A South Philly native with dedication to bolstering individuals and families through the sport, the 47-year-old can claim “Game, set, match” as the winner of the high school/youth coach honor.

“Tennis is about managing small challenges, giving a fair effort, and experiencing the accomplishments that come with doing so with a positive attitude,” the Passyunk Square dweller said of how the pastime has helped him to enable pupils to prosper. “If we could handle our lives in the same manner, we would experience more successes.”

With Barry Playground as the hub of the five-year-old association’s programs, including next week’s spring break mini camp and tennis Olympics, Hughes considers each teaching occasion an opportunity to impress upon his charges the beauty of gradual growth. That concern for steady progress has helped his brainchild to reap renown from the United States Tennis Association, which honored the SPTA as the Community Tennis Association of the Year in 2014 and dubbed it a Premier Provider last year and again two weeks ago.

“It’s the little things that always make me proud of what I do, like the smiles of a five-year-old who just learned how to hit the ball over the net, or the uncontrollable laughter after (a few children) accomplish a partner game,” Hughes beamed. “I’m always proud of our high school and college age players who work with our young ones and help them accomplish the same things I helped them with.”

Having spent so many childhood hours at recreation centers that his mother needed to shout for him to eat and go to bed, the resident of the 1100 block of South Eighth Street loves that locals can enjoy the same sort of infatuation with physical activity through his instruction.

“Hanging out at the playgrounds was some of the best times of my life, and now as a coach, I get to share those times with fellow South Philly families,” Hughes said. “We’re a unique group down here and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Neumann-Goretti High School boys’ basketball coach Carl Arrigale and assistant baseball coach Joseph Messina, who also coaches baseball at the Delaware Valley Youth Athletic Association, tied for second, while DVYAA baseball coach Frank Genzano and Edward O’Malley Athletic Association softball commissioner Shawn Brown doubled up in third. — J.M.