By James Maimonis | USTA New England

Following a nearly five-year hiatus, Junior Team Tennis (JTT) is officially back in Rhode Island. After gauging interest over the past few years since the program disbanded in 2013, USTA New England Board Member and Rhode Island tennis coach Mo Raissi, decided it was time to restore JTT in the Ocean State.

He, along with USTA New England Tennis Service Representative for Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, Christy Bennett, and program coordinator Bethany Verret, spearheaded the effort to create Rhody Junior Team Tennis.

“We have the talent pool, lots of interest and parents looking for a year-round commitment, so we should be able to pull off competitive teams in a fun environment,” Raissi said.

Raissi currently runs a middle school team tennis league throughout the state, and it got to a point where once kids aged out, they were left without an option to continue playing.

“Specifically in the past year, kids have shown heavy interest in continuing JTT and this league is an easy transition from the middle school program,” Raissi said

The middle school league began five years ago with three schools involved, and it now boasts 360 players from 13 schools, some of which are already playing JTT. Saturday, February 24, marked the first JTT league match at Centre Court in Riverside, RI.

“Everyone seemed to have a nice time,” Bennett said. “I talked to some parents, and they were laughing and joking and watching their kids enjoy themselves. Mo would even tell kids to go hit around or play together in between their matches to bolster the team environment.”Matches will continue to be played monthly and will feature four teams competing in both the 18U and 14U age divisions in a jamboree setting with round robin scoring.

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“By holding matches once a month, we are trying to make them more of events rather than people just showing up and leaving,” Bennett added. “We’re trying to foster the team aspect and want everyone to come together and look forward to it, where head to head matches sometimes don’t have that feel.”

The league is off to a promising start with three more events lined up for the spring and a state playoff set for June. The winners in each age division will compete at New England Sectionals in August at Harvard University.

“Our focus is to create a productive environment so kids can compete year round, and more  importantly to align ourselves with the mission of USTA New England, ‘To Promote and Develop the Growth of Tennis,’” Raissi said.

“USTA New England has supported us tremendously thus far,” he added “Now we need to gain interest and support from more clubs, which we encourage to get involved. We are grateful for what we have so far, and are hopeful that we will be a force to be reckoned with.”

The next three season matches will be on March 24, April 28 and June 23 with playoffs to follow.

If you would like to get involved with the league or have any questions, email Mo Raissi at: mohraissi@gmail.com.

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