The Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club is giving an advantage to kids in need.
Starting in February, the club will put on free lessons and clinics for homeless children from the San Diego Rescue Mission. The Mission will handle transportation up to Rancho Santa Fe and the club will take it from there, with all of the professionals giving hands-on, quality instruction and young members of the booming juniors program will come out to play with the kids as well.
“They have no idea what’s coming,” said excited Head Pro Derek Miller.
The idea for the new outreach program came out of RSF Tennis Club board member Dave Van Den Berg’s first-time visit to the San Diego Rescue Mission last year. He was blown away by the Mission’s President and CEO, Herb Johnson, and all of the things the organization does for the community.
The Mission has been serving San Diego for 60 years, helping people address the challenges behind their homelessness and return to their communities as “fulfilled, contributing members of society.” They provide housing, hunger relief, mental health counseling and education.
After Van Den Berg saw the facility he told Johnson he had an idea to make the club available to the children who lived there, providing free lessons and clinics, and having racquets and shoes donated by the membership.
Van Den Berg said Johnson became emotional at his suggestion.
“He said most of these kids have never seen anything but a downtown street or homeless shelter. They’ve never been to a country club. We could be giving them something that they hold onto for the rest of their lives, giving the kids an opportunity to play sports and be part of a team because they’ve never lived in one place long enough to do that,” Van Den Berg said. “It had a tremendous impact on me personally.”
The children from the Rescue Mission will be able to take part in what Van Den Berg calls an “outrageously” good junior tennis program and learn the game from some of the top professionals in the world, such as Christian Groh, who coached professional player Tommy Haas.
They will get to mix it up with players from the program, dozens of whom are ranked in top 100 lists. The program has produced talented players such as Taylor Fritz, the number one junior in the world and 154th in ATP rankings at age 18, and Logan Smith, who now plays for USC. Two of Rancho Santa Fe’s young prodigies, fifth and fourth graders Hudson Rivera and Andrew Salu, recently paired to win the Silver Ball at the Winter Nationals.
Raul De La Torre, a young player who benefited from one of the club’s outreach programs, is now attending San Diego State on a tennis scholarship.
“We do a lot of things for the community, we want our club to be known for that,” Van Den Berg said. “We’re very much into giving back to the community and tennis is a fabulous way to do it. The Rescue Mission program is going to be really impactful. This is the best place for them to come.”
The club has already collected a lot of donations for racquets but could always use more and they are also short on tennis shoes. For information, visit rsftennis.club or call (858) 756-4459.