Cass-White was recruited by her good friend and longtime Camden resident Orlando Council-Pettigrew To assist him practice tennis To women Inside The metropolis. He retired from his job as a postal service two yrs in the past, and recently decided that after three many yrs of teaching the Simbas soccer group, he was In a place to go amethod that labor Of affection as properly.
“Nothing was incorrect,” he said, “however at 57 yrs previous, it was time to get out of The biggest method.”
For Council-Pettigrew, an accomplished tennis participant in his youth, a lifelong love of The sport and Barely woman named “Icebox” provided the inspiration.
Orlando Council-Pettigrew assists practice women The tactic to play tennis in Camden On Aug. 16, 2021. (April Saul for WHYY)
In 2016, almost 50 yrs after the Simbas’ inception, Council-Pettigrew acquired The prospect To practice Janiyah Hill, a 7-yr-previous combination working again and quarteragain and The primary woman to play on the 75-pound squad. She was nicknamed “Icebox” after A particular personality Inside the film “Little Giants.” Council-Pettigrew had coached her father and was additionally pals Collectively with her granddad.
On the time, Council-Pettigrew said working with Janiyah made him “Eager about teaching as quickly as extra.” Which have, he said, led him to make this summer time’s program solely For women, although he hopes to make it coed Finally.
“In our metropolis,” he said, “we exactly get no money for packages For women. We now have basketball, soccer … however we Do not have something strictly for little women, sports activitiessensible.”
At a Simbas recreation in September 2016, coach Orlando Council-Pettigrew introduces Janiyah (“Icebox”) Hill to the referees. (April Saul for WHYY)
Nobody can primarytain in thoughts exactly when tennis groups disseemed from Camden Extreme and Woodrow Wilson high schools, However it was in all probability A minimal Of 5 yrs in the past.
Council-Pettigrew Is not the one particular person making an try to convey tennis again to The metropolis. Dr. Jack O’Byrne, authorities director of the Camden County Historic Society, and Bridget Phifer, authorities director of the Parkside Enterprise & Group in Partnership (PBCIP), have been elevating money to renovate the 5 rundown tennis courtrooms between the Historic Society constructing and the Camden Extreme soccer area on Park Avenue — with the hope of conveying tennis again to Camden Extreme by spring 2023.
O’Byrne said that So far $50,000 of the $147,000 needed has been raised by way of grants, and that Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen And school Board President Wasim Muhammad have promised To purpose To assist with The reprimarying. O’Byrne said it’s An factor of the society’s partnership with The varsity system To reinforce the baseball and softball areas, As properly as to the tennis courtrooms — That are not eligible for state School Enchancment Authority funding as a Outcome of They do not Appear to be contiguous to the exact Camden Extreme complicated.
Though that mannequin-new constructing has been The primary goal of a lot consideration, Phifer said, “you additionally Want to have enhanced leisure alternatives for The youngsters … they Want to be Snug with the place They’re, whether or not it’s a baseball or softball area or a tennis courtroom.”
Estelle “Cookie” Sey coached tennis at Camden Extreme Inside the early Nineteen Eighties, and, Council-Pettigrew said, “taught me every thing I Discover out about tennis.”
Kelly Cass-White provides Ideas that might Jeyla Prolonged, 7, in Camden on Aug. 26, 2021. (April Saul for WHYY)
Sey was irritated by the discrepancies in funding between her program And greater-profile sports activities. The school’s athletic director at the time, she said, “by no means exactly acquired me respectable gear … boys’ basketball and soccer recreationrs would even get sneakers!”
She give up, she said, when “I had enough of arguing that We would have appreciated Prince tennis rackets. We have been having fun with Cherry Hill. The suburban schools had greater gear.”
Wes Fuller, who gained accolades For every tennis and basketball at Camden Extreme, having fun with with basketball legends like Milt Wagner earlier than graduating in 1983, said he spent 12-hour stretches at the Dudley Grange courtrooms in East Camden perfecting his tennis recreation as a youth.
Fuller recalled that he was The one Camden participant to ever beat a Cherry Hill tennis group member. Both high schools in Cherry Hill nonetheless have aggressive tennis packages, As properly as to many extra sports activities decisions For women than Camden schools do, Similar to volleyball, area hockey, and soccer.
Now dwelling in Georgia, the place he coaches teenagers to earn tennis school scholarships and recently had a former scholar compete Inside the U.S. Open, Fuller considers tennis hones completely different expertise than completely different sports activities do.
“Tennis is what’s needed in Camden,” said Fuller, “as a Outcome of it practicees youngsters self-discipline, to be self-enough, and To imagine about Inside themselves. There’s no groupmates, and in exact life, Do you have to Want to be A doctor or lawyer, there’s not On A daily basis a group. Our youngsters need confidence To understand issues and make sensible selections.”
Melani Thompson, 10, learns The tactic to play tennis in Camden on Aug. 26, 2021. (April Saul for WHYY)