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Recreation: Culpeper club’s work paying off
BY NATHAN WARTERS
The Culpeper Sport and Racquet Club has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, so much so that it is now considered the best in a region teeming with tennis training facilities.
The CSRC was recently recognized for its efforts when it was named the Mid-Atlantic Section’s facility of the year by the United States Tennis Association.
It beat out some much bigger clubs in the region, which includes all of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Washington.
“It’s probably the most exciting thing that I’ve been a part of in probably my life, to be honest with you,” said Preston Will, who took over ownership of the club in 2011. “It’s not very often that you’re recognized by the United States Tennis Association for doing something like that.”
An aesthetic overhaul of the facility—which also includes a basketball court, racquetball court and weight room, among other amenities—was only part of the club’s transformation. The tennis program there has grown exponentially under the watch of head tennis pro George Christoforatos.
“He’s pretty much been the most important part of it,” Will said. “George is here probably 12 hours a day, doing whatever it takes to get people playing.”
Through the instruction of Christoforatos, and assistant pros Kevin Raley and Dena Smith, the CSRC has built a reputation as a top-notch training center.
The surrounding community is taking notice. Membership numbers are up, and the club has added multiple boys and girls teams to accommodate the increased interest.
“Now our program has grown from 20 kids to about 130 kids altogether,” Christoforatos said. “It’s just been crazy, and people are still coming through the door.”
Christoforatos, who coaches the boys tennis team at James Monroe, said the level of tennis being played by young people in the area is getting increasingly better.
Rose Bennett, a senior at Eastern View, thinks Chris-toforatos and the other pros at the CSRC should get a lot of credit for that.
“[Christoforatos] teaches you that tennis is about the live ball, it’s about the match play. He brings out another kind of tennis,” Bennett said. “We really focus on footwork around here, and that’s what college coaches like to see.
“What he does for our mental game is awesome. He keeps us really, really positive and when you’re thinking well, you’re playing well.”
The CSRC has also given college coaches an avenue to scout a large group of area players in one location.
Bennett is being recruited by a handful of Division II and III schools. So is club member and Culpeper senior Kursten Anderson.
“Honestly, I don’t think I would have been exposed to college coaches if it hadn’t been for George,” Anderson said.
When those college coaches walk through the door now, they’ll see a large sign advertising the club’s prestigious USTA award. Will, the club owner, has placed multiple signs at the facility to document the award. But that’s not all.
“The whole entire crew got new shirts saying ‘Facility of the Year’ in humongous letters. Everyone there knows that it’s facility of the year, and it’s great,” said club member Sarah Parker, a freshman at Riverbend.
The club is working on increasing its impact in 2013, from offering free programs to less-privileged youth to more facility upgrades. Will and his staff want this year to be better than the last.
“You keep striving to be better. That’s the bottom line,” Will said. “You can’t just be settled for one. Now let’s try to get a second one.”
Nathan Warters: 540/374-5442