Hounds Jakiel Leads New Britain Tennis Surge
USTA News/August 11, 2010
CHESHIRE, CT – In a few weeks Rich Jakiel will return to Assumption College to begin his sophomore year as a business management major.
And while some of his classmates will have spent the summer working at large corporations to gain experience, Jakiel will have them all beat, thanks to his busy summer.
"I certainly think of this as a phenomenal learning experience for the future," said Jakiel, a 19-year-old from New Britain. "There’s some organization, management and budgeting involved in what I do."
Apparently, Jakiel is also working on a minor in understatement.
Jakiel, who has been "hooked on tennis" since he took part in a parks and recreation program in junior high school, does it all when it comes to tennis in his hometown.
A recently certified USPTA pro, Jakiel teaches the game to New Britain kids through the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. When he isn’t giving lessons, he’s busy running USTA Leagues for both men and women and coaching Jr. Team Tennis.
"I love working with these kids," said Jakiel, who walked on to Assumption’s Division 2 tennis team as a freshman and will be part of the team in the fall. "They’re such a dedicated group of kids. We practice two hours a day on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and they just keep coming back, and their passion for the game is contagious."
The fact that the New Britain JTT squad returned for this its second season is a testament to the character of the players, but it’s also a direct reflection of the relationship they have with a coach who’s just a couple years their senior.
Last season, the New Britain team went winless, but the program didn’t fall apart – it grew.
This season, the team was one of the most improved in the state of Connecticut and earned a trip to the USTA New England Connecticut JTT State Championships at Cheshire Academy.
"I just love this game and one of the best things in the world is getting other people to see why," said Jakiel, who caught the coaching bug when he attended a USTA Recreational Coaches Workshop in Bristol two years ago. "I love the fact that tennis is making its way into communities like New Britain and I can’t say enough about the effort that the USTA has made to make that happen. We wouldn’t be able to offer much tennis programming if it wasn’t for the grant money we received over the last couple years"
New Britain was named the USTA New England Parks and Recreation Association of the Year in 2009, and Jakiel was one of the major reasons why, according to Nikita Zaharov.
"Rich is one of my favorite people to work with and he’s a huge asset to New Britain and to USTA New England," said Zaharov, USTA New England’s Community Relations Manager for Northern Connecticut. "When I first heard that there was such a young kid running tennis programming in a big city, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. After meeting Rich once I could tell this kid was dedicated and committed to growing tennis."
Zaharov has the utmost respect for Jakiel’s ability to spearhead tennis programming and his ability to connect with his young players.
"He had kids playing in the state tournament who had only been playing tennis for two months," Zaharov said. "These kids love Rich, and he’s committed to giving every kid a chance to play."