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Team Matches Are 'Party' For 250 Kids

May 25, 2011 02:46 PM
David Buerkle, Director of Tennis for the Mitchell (Ga.) County Parks and Recreation Department, with his tennis playing family.
By Jackie Floyd, USTA Southern Jr. Team Tennis and Public Relations Committees Member
 
Thanks to a dedicated Director at Mitchell County Tennis Center in Southwest Georgia, a USTA Jr. Team Tennis program now boasts weekend match play that hosts over 250 kids! David Buerkle has been the Director of Tennis for the past eight years, and a USTA Georgia Jr. Team Tennis Local League Coordinator for the past 2 years. He has seen and optimized the potential for growing junior tennis in his corner of the state.
 
"Our USTA JTT program has grown into something special for the kids," states the modest Buerkle. "When I moved here from West Palm Beach 8 years ago, we had a few teams. These teams would get automatic berths to the state tournament because the kids didn’t have anyone to play during the regular season. We have now grown to 26 juniors teams with over 250 kids in a 6 county area. The kids have plenty of kids to play every week and we’re still growing."
 
What’s the reason for their success? Buerkle states, "It was a community of people from Thomas, Decatur, Lowndes, Colquitt, Mitchell, and Coffee counties who were willing and wanted to help make it happen for the kids." Buerkle also credits USTA Georgia’s Mary Dillon, Jr. Team Tennis Coordinator for her help in educating them about line grants for 10U tennis. He also states she was very helpful in answering questions about how to grow their program.
 
Tim Thompson, a tennis professional at the Bill Reynolds Tennis Center in Bainbridge and coach, credits Buerkle for the Southwest Georgia Jr. Team Tennis league’s success. "David has been instrumental in growing the SWGJTT league. He has really taken ownership and has shown great leadership in coordinating our league. He is the glue that brings everyone together from all of the facilities." Thompson goes on to say, " He’s (Buerkle) is a really great communicator and keeps everyone in the loop. David has a great working relationship with a lot of people in the area and he’s just a great guy to work with. Without him we would not have grown to 250 kids."
 
How does this league work? Buerkle explained that the SWGJTT league hosts its season of regular match play on the weekends at different host facilities. "In Southwest Georgia, people like to plan and put on a party," says Buerkle. "So we naturally decided that all of the teams in our league would host a "party" or match day every weekend. It is like a tournament. Our kids and families love it." Buerkle coordinates the season schedule for the 26 teams each season, ranging from 10 and under division through 18 and under in a 6 county area. "The host teams bring the food and supply the courts. It’s a weekly event that is on everyone’s calendars so it’s just a given that everyone is there each week. It’s what works for us. It is something the kids look forward to every week."
 
If you talk with Buerkle about his program he likes to give credit where credit is due. He states that the kids and their parents, the tennis centers, the tennis professionals and the community all made this league possible. He specifically credits Eddie Williamson, a man who started a tennis tournament in Mitchell County about 30 years ago. "Eddie raised over 1 million dollars for the charities and local communities in need in Southwest Georgia, "states Buerkle. "This event and efforts to put money back in the communities helped to build the Mitchell County tennis center and get a tennis program off the ground." Buerkle goes on to say that without Eddie Williamson we wouldn’t have the juniors program Southwest Georgia.
 
Besides volunteering as a Georgia JTT Coordinator for this growing league in Southwest Georgia, Buerkle is also a member of the 2011 Georgia Jr. Team Tennis Committee. He is married to his wife Maria, a 4.0 league player, and he is also a proud Dad. Buerkle boasts that, "…all 7 of my kids play or know about tennis!" He has 10-year-old twins who are both ranked in the top 50 in 10U in Georgia. He also has an 8-year-old playing 10U Jr. Team Tennis this year. The Buerkle’s also have a 6-year-old son, a child who just turned 5, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. "They all love tennis. Even my one year old drags his tennis racquet around the house," laughs Buerkle.
 
Mary Dillon, USTA Georgia JTT Coordinator credits Buerkle’s success to simply "his love and passion for kids and tennis." She goes on to explain how USTA Georgia is very lucky to have a volunteer like him. "He is willing to devote many hours organizing a growing league. He has also embraced the QuickStart Tennis concept and is actively promoting, educating and encouraging the use of smaller courts and equipment for 10 and under players throughout southwest Georgia. We truly appreciate all that he does."
 
Buerkle’s success in growing the SWGJTT league may be best summed up by Ike McCook, Director at the Mitchell County Parks and Recreation Department. McCook states that he "doesn’t know anyone who works any harder than David. He knows how to get things done."
 
 

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