Passing the racket
Becoming one of the best tennis players in Duluth history started at the Longview Tennis Club. Erik Donley lived a few blocks from the courts at 326 North 25th Ave. East and was often there for hours learning the game with his friends. Now 33, he...
Becoming one of the best tennis players in Duluth history started at the Longview Tennis Club.
Erik Donley lived a few blocks from the courts at 326 North 25th Ave. East and was often there for hours learning the game with his friends.
Now 33, he wants to provide the same opportunity to learn a lifetime sport and is back in town this summer with a racket in hand. Donley, a Minneapolis resident, and volunteer assistant Luciano Battaglini, 29, are holding three one-day camps for youth and adult players starting Saturday at Longview. The other camp dates are July 21 and Aug. 18.
"Our plan is to build enthusiasm for the sport by teaching solid fundamentals,'' said Donley, a former three-time Big Ten champion at the University of Minnesota. "Once you know the fundamentals, you can work as much as you want on your game and get as good as you want.''
Donley played at Duluth East High School and Minnesota, becoming captain of the Gophers in 1996. He earned ATP points as a professional in singles and doubles, and has been teaching the sport for five years. Coaching out of the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis, he's recently worked with Mounds Park Academy senior Bryan Kelly (the 2007 Minnesota Class A champion), his sister, Brenna (the 2006 Class A girls champion), Mounds View eighth-grader Wyatt McCoy (2007 Class AA champion) and Mounds View's David Croonquist and Tyler Rice (2007 Class AA doubles champions).
Battaglini, a native of Brazil, was an All-American at Oklahoma State and was an assistant with the University of Minnesota women's team for four years through this spring. He'll be head women's coach at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., this fall.
Donley and Battaglini have done some coaching together the past 1½ years.
"I know there are many talented players in the Duluth area and Erik speaks highly of the tennis community,'' said Battaglini. "We'd like to see players start with the sport at a young age and stay with it. We can provide some technical strategy and show what it takes to play well at the high school and college level.''
KEVIN PATES covers sports for the News Tribune. He can be reached at 723-5306, (800)456-8181 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .