Hamilton County Community Tennis Association Celebrates Nearly 30 Years

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Considering its longevity and the success of its myriad programs, it might be hard to believe that the Hamilton County Community Tennis Association (HCCTA) started with a modest $750 in grant money and a small group of diligent volunteers.

In 1990, Helen Moser Petersen was serving as a volunteer for the United States Tennis Association (USTA), who, at the time, was making a nationwide push for more local grassroots tennis associations. Petersen felt the timing was right to forge a local, nonprofit association in Central Indiana to promote the growth of tennis here and promptly set to work spreading the word and recruiting passionate volunteers.

“There was some grant money available to start the community association, and I got $500 from USTA Midwest and another $250 from the Central Indiana Tennis Association,” Petersen recalls. “I had had some experience working with the Indianapolis NJTL (National Junior Tennis & Learning), and I knew that getting some after-school tennis programs together would be a good start. Kids are the most important part of growing tennis. They’re always coming up and you never lose that resource.”

Thus was born the HCCTA, the first – and still the only – nonprofit tennis organization in Hamilton County. Petersen and her group of volunteers began with one after-school program in Noblesville, and the HCCTA has grown to include a variety of tennis classes and programs for ages 4 to adult in Fishers and Carmel year-round.

“Our mission is to use tennis to enrich communities in things like fitness, community service and diversity,” adds Petersen, a former English teacher who served as HCCTA president and director until 2014. “Everybody’s welcome regardless of ability, skin color, post office box – none of that matters as long as you want to come out and have some tennis fun.”

While HCCTA does not own its own facility, the organization is able to provide tennis classes and clinics year-round for all ages at the Carmel Racquet Club (HCCTA participants do not need to be Club members), as well as several area schools including Fall Creek Junior High School, Carmel High School and Hamilton Southeastern Junior High School.

“I’m proud that we’re year-round, and we’ve got a program going on nearly every day of the week,” Petersen says. “Since we’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit we’ve been able to go into schools too and do things like clinics and our large after-school program, which deals with hand-eye coordination and introducing kids to the racquet and having fun with it.”

Petersen’s daughter Maggie Petersen currently serves as HCCTA executive director, in addition to teaching part-time at Carmel Racquet Club and serving as tennis coach for Fall Creek Junior High School.

“We do everything we can to bring tennis to people in their local community, whether that’s Fishers or Carmel,” Maggie says. “We always try to be accessible if people are interested or have questions and get them involved in the easiest way possible if they want to be a part of our programs.”

In 2013, the HCCTA launched a Special Olympics tennis program in Carmel, which has since expanded to Boone County and Washington Township. Each summer for eight weeks, all three locations offer a free opportunity for special needs individuals, from junior high to adult ages, to participate once a week in tennis instruction, with snacks, bottled water, a gently used racquet and a t-shirt included.

“Our instructors for the Special Olympics program are absolutely amazing,” Maggie says. “They do it for free and devote their time and energy, and they’re really the reason the program has been so successful.”

The HCCTA also offers an educational program called Champion Reads®, which Petersen started in 2011. Volunteers of all ages have authored seven chapter books at the third grade level for the program, which tells the stories of athletes like Arthur Ashe and Bille Jean King who overcame major obstacles to become champions in their sport. The program includes a 36-page teacher guide for each book, covering six subject areas, which Petersen has used for the last three years to incorporate the books into local summer camp programs.

Petersen says the Champion Reads® program is a perfect example of how the HCCTA ultimately aims to impart life lessons that transcend the game of tennis.

“Tennis is fun, but it’s also a hook to teach people about the more important things in life,” she says.

For more on the Hamilton County Community Tennis Association, to become a sponsor or make a donation, and for details about job openings or becoming a volunteer, call 317-501-9145 or visit them online at hccta.org.

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