Boston Tennis Club Volleys Back After Pandemic

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The coronavirus continues to hit businesses hard with unforeseen challenges, new variants and seemingly endless controversies around vaccines and safety.

Yet, in the game of tennis, every hit is an opportunity to volley back and keep the game going.

The Sportsmen's Tennis & Enrichment Center in Dorchester, Massachusetts, had to make major changes to both their tennis and academic programs when the pandemic hit last year.

“I think the most difficult day of my entire career was the day that I had to lay off the whole staff because we shut down and we didn't know what was going to come forward,” said CEO Toni Wiley.

Sportsmen’s was the first African-American nonprofit indoor tennis club in the United States and for 60 years has been a hub for the community, both young and old, by providing youth enrichment and adult education programs on top of their tennis offerings.

Toni said that their priorities shifted from tennis and education when everything closed down, with a new focus on providing food resources and supporting local families in need.

“We immediately did everything we could to help families in the area access food resources. So we wanted to do the same thing for our staff. We wanted to make sure that everyone was going to be whole until unemployment began to flow or until we knew what the future was going to hold.”

As the months went on, they transitioned to virtual tennis lessons and youth education classes as families struggled to find ways for their children to stay engaged at home. Much of the year was spent on uncertainty, both for safety and keeping finances in line, and trying to figure out the next steps.

Vaccines made their way to the public and eventually, the courts and classes have since been opened up once again with new challenges to face. While many changes have been made for the health of the people they serve, their mission to enrich the community remains strong.

There is a lot in store at Sportsmen’s with continued growth and expansion, but we are not past the pandemic just yet. While the kids were able to come back for summer camp this year, a positive test results puts a wrench in their final week.

This story is part of a series following small business owners through the pandemic. To view all stories part of NBC Local’s “Rebound” project, click here.

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