Serving the purpose

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The South Philly Tennis Association hopes for a crowd similar to what it had for its spring French Open event. Photo supplied by Bryan Hughes

Bryan Hughes has always pegged himself as a people person, believing in the boundless benefits of sharing experiences and fostering connections. Always eager to add acquaintances, the resident of the 1100 block of South Eighth Street is hoping to exchange a few firm handshakes and solid groundstrokes Saturday when the South Philadelphia Tennis Association takes to Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, for the Summer Sizzler, the official kickoff of the entity’s relationship with the green space’s friends group.

“It’s something I had always hoped for,” the president of the five-year-old association said of its bond with admirers of the Packer Park jewel. “It’s a dream for us to become partners with them in being advocates for the game.”

The Passyunk Square inhabitant relayed that friends group member Barbara Capozzi approached him about establishing programming in the expanse. As the overseer of a labor of love that has won Community Tennis Association of the Year honors through the United States Tennis Association (USTA), Hughes immediately gave consent and has proven a content partner through the Grow the Game outreach. Having already commenced Tuesday and Thursday After Work Drill and Play sessions at the 102-year-old urban slice of heaven, he is using Saturday’s gathering as the declaration of the triumvirate that the association, the friends group, and the USTA have formed.

“There’s obviously a great presence on the courts already, but we want to intensify that through a bunch of new opportunities,” Hughes said from Barry Playground, 18th and Johnston streets, where he helps youngsters through National Junior Tennis & Learning instruction. “The keys are to keep everything affordable and to promote fun. If you’re not doing those, you’re not going to have something sustainable on your hands.”

Saturday’s participants in the $25 Adult Play Day Tournament will engage in three rounds of rotating mixed partner doubles action. Designed for players of all abilities, the 1–4 p.m. offering will also find Hughes furthering his reputation as a gregarious and giving guy through food and drink options, prizes, and giveaways.

“It promises to be a great afternoon,” he said of the looming experience. “There couldn’t be a better duo for us to be able to partner with as the SPTA looks to grow.”

A visit to the South Philly Review’s website search engine reveals that Hughes has often appeared in the publication, most recently in March when he claimed the high school/youth coach Readers’ Choice Award. Time in Texas and Florida yielded amazing instructional opportunities, but no matter how appealing and successful his stints in other locations have been, South Philly will always loop a lasso around the native’s heart.

“That’s what makes this all the more rewarding,” he said of the affiliation with Capozzi, a 2014 South Philly Review Difference Maker. “Here’s someone who gets how important it is to have people and families out enjoying themselves through somewhere as impressive as FDR Park.”

Hughes noted that the initial programs through the new player initiative will look to be as inclusive as the South Philly Tennis Association’s ledger of endeavors has been. He expressed particular interest in drawing minorities and millenials, yet no matter one’s makeup, he feels the time to take up “the sport of a lifetime” is now.

“The relationship is already a blessing,” he said as Barry registrants began their morning offerings to the tennis gods by taking a few practice swings. “It’s not the SPTA going alone, and as everything evolves, the hope is that people, no matter their experience or availability, will look to this partnership for strengthening their love of the game.”

While Saturday’s focus will be on adults, younger enthusiasts’ racquets will not soon be collecting dust. Come Aug. 27, a Junior Play Day Summer Fiesta will include information on joining USTA Programs, notably the increasingly popular 10-and-under tennis format, and, on Sept. 17, Hughes and his colleagues will start their Junior Team Tennis slate, with tutelage for three different age groups. The 47-year-old intends to remain his customarily outgoing self in attracting curious locals to FDR’s courts, knowing that his decades of diligence as a practitioner and an encourager will always keep his spirits lightly strung.

“I look forward to Saturday and to everything that’s to come,” Hughes said. “Let’s network and hit the courts every time that we can.” SPR

To register, call 215–528–0196, or visit meetup.com/SPTATennis or spta.usta.com.

Contact Editor Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.