What does it take for a tennis camp to earn a worldwide top-10 ranking? Just ask Zeke Straw, director of tennis at Northstar.
This year, Tennis Resorts Online awarded the Northstar Tennis Camp with this distinctive “Gold Medalist” honor. Northstar now officially stands shoulder to should with other prestigious camps like the Evert and Bollettieri academies.
The ranking award was based on a survey that asked thousands of tennis vacationers what they valued on and off the court. Outstanding children’s and adult camps and programs, restaurants, and lodging set Northstar apart.
The only thing missing from Northstar these days is a stronger locals presence.
“We have such a rich program here that could be a great feeder for the high school teams,” Straw said in a recent interview.
To involve more Tahoe/Truckee residents in his Northstar Tennis Camp, Straw is extending a personal invitation and a reduced rate: Locals get 20 percent off camp prices with proof of year-round residence. “There is so much untapped potential in this community to develop some great tennis athletes, and we have the resources in our own backyard,” Straw said.
Straw should know. He is an avid participant in the local tennis scene and has coached local high school tennis teams. In addition, he and Jim Kooler, a pro at Northstar Tennis, recently made it to the finals of the Colin Ranch Tournament 4.5 USTA and Tahoe Donner 4.5 USTA tournament. He is also looking forward to the Northstar Tournament scheduled for Sept. 6-8. There is nothing he would like more than to see some of his own hometown community taking part in more of these activities.
Straw’s particular formula for running a quality camp includes three additional key points: training, coaching and community — all of which make for great tennis skill development right here at home.
One of the most important parts of the Northstar camp is cross training. For instance, Northstar’s cardio tennis for adults uses music to help players increase stamina and learn their own low, medium and high training zones.
For players 10 and under, Straw offers the “Little Tennis” program. This is a graduated learning environment that provides a functional way for kids to learn tennis. The program reduces the size of the court and equipment — except for the balls, which are larger and softer.
“This is the kind of training that America needs to develop youth tennis,” Straw said. “This is part of the ‘instructional initiative’ put forth by the USTA as an effort to encourage the development of the sport in this country.”
To train his camp members, Straw relies on tennis pros who are both accomplished and highly personable. Of course, the pros must have the proper formal training; however, they must also be able to respond to the campers’ needs.
“They need to immediately know what pacing works for each person on the court. They need to have all the cogs in the wheel and be able to address many elements at once: fitness, game components, nutrition and body management — stretching, and recovery,” Straw said.
Straw has acquired some exceptional pro talent. GuillaumeTonelli, another Northstar pro, is a native of France. He played for the University of Nevada Wolf Pack for two years and was a collegiate tennis pro with Tyler Junior College in Texas. Guillaume’s international background adds yet another dimension to the overall camp experience at Northstar.
Cody Kohlmoos, one of Northstar’s pros, graduated from the University of Montana as the 2007 State Doubles Champ. Now in his sixth season of coaching, Kohlmoos can say he has coached every age level. He worked with youngsters at the Missoula Parks and Rec and served as the assistant tennis coach at the University of Montana.
“I love working for Zeke,” he said. “What I love about Northstar is the fun we have. I also have an awesome time working with Guillaume.”
Community and team building complete the Northstar Tennis Camp success story.
Many high school and ladies’ teams come to Northstar not just for the training but for the experience of sharing lodging, great food and a scenic mountain setting.
“There’s nothing like a tennis vacation with your friends,” said longtime attendee, Candace Egan. “We get to indulge ourselves in playing tennis every day for a week with people we care about. And when we go home we can remind each other of what we learned from Zeke and the other pros.”
Given the caliber of its camp and pros, Northstar adds yet another superb facet to the overall Tahoe summer experience.