Dr. Herman N. Nielson Award
First women to receive the honor.
The Neilson award is given annually to those who help promote tennis on the peninsula.
Martha Cuevas and Beth Morrison received the 2015 award for their work with 11 and Under kids tennis.
Hampton Roads Tennis Academy (HRTA) was founded by Martha Cuevas and Beth Morrison in 2015.
Cuevas, a retired teaching assistant from Coventry elementary school in Yorktown, VA, asked Morrison to take a coaching class with her. That invitation was the seed that eventually grew into HRTA.
In Cuevas’s words, “I started coaching because of my love of tennis. I want to help grow the sport.” Harvey Robinson, tennis pro at Huntington Park Tennis Center, gave Cuevas her first taste of coaching. “I started helping Harvey with his red ball class. This motivated me to take the USTA training for 10 and under.” This is the training she invited Morrison to attend, which is how their partnership started.
The partner’s have just completed their fifth year of coaching together. The pair realized early on the need for the program in their community. Cuevas describes their coaching evolution, “As we started coaching different age groups, especially the older kids, it really became apparent that if we could get the kids interested at an early age, the skill level of kids going into high school and beyond would be so much better.” In their first year they taught only 10 and Under kids, by year two they had expanded to middle school kids as well. Morrison said, “Additional training through PTR (Professional Tennis Registry) has also helped us feel more confident in teaching children and adults.” As of today, HRTA offers classes to all ages, from 5 to adult.
In addition, the duo have formed a partnership with York County Parks and Recreation Department. Classes are available January thru February for school age children on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The coaches transform a local elementary school’s basketball court into indoor tennis courts with the use of volleyball nets, allowing students to continue working on skills throughout the winter months. Cuevas and Morrison teach weekly summer camps for the county during the summer.
Cuevas said, when asked why she loves coaching; “I really feel proud when our students master skills and you can see their excitement. They continue lessons with us or improve enough that they move on to more advanced instructions.” The partners work with other tennis coaches in the area to promote all opportunities available to the kids, not just what HRTA offers. The company’s mission as stated on their website explains why: “Our mission is to grow youth tennis on the Peninsula and beyond.”
The kid’s favorite question according to Morrison, “When can I play a match?” Cuevas said HRTA is accomplishing their mission; “The most important thing we want our kids to have is fun! Tennis is a fun sport that can be played a lifetime, but if kids aren’t having fun, they won’t come back.” At the end of class, Cuevas said she often hears the kids say, “The lesson is over already!” Cuevas continued, “This confirms we’ve done our job for the day, the kids had fun.”
In 2015 Cuevas and Morrison received the “Dr. Herman N. Nielsen Award,” the first women to receive it. The award is given by the Peninsula Tennis Patrons Association (PTPA), a non-profit organization that runs tennis tournaments in the Hampton Roads Area. The Neilson award is given annually to those who help promote tennis on the peninsula. Cuevas and Morrison received the award for their work with 10 and Under kids in their first year of coaching.