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Cinderella Tournament for Mount Vernon 10 Year Old

October 24, 2011 03:22 PM
10 year old Mount Vernon resident, Gibson Thomas, thrilled her parents and family last weekend when she made it, for the first time, to the semifinals of a Level 1 USTA Eastern sanctioned tournament. Gibson, who was playing only her third tournament this year, had the misfortune of drawing the second seeded player for her first match. She quickly lost the first set 6-3, but she put everything she had into the second set, fighting off three match points to win that set in a tie breaker. She won the super-tie breaker 10-6 to win the match. Gibson then played the quarterfinals, and semifinals, winning them with impressive scores of 6-1, 6-1 and 6-1, 6-0. When asked how she did it, she responded shyly, “Consistency, I guess. That first girl was very good, so I just had to play well and get the ball back every time.”
Gibson lost the finals to impressive Long Islander, Francesca Karman, who played a near perfect tournament, dropping only three games for the entire two weekend event. She was not discouraged, choosing instead to look at her loss in the finals as an important learning opportunity. “Francesca was so focused,” Gibson noted. “She just played her game no matter what I tried to do. I have to figure out how to be like that. Then I’ll play her again.”
Gibson is a fifth grader at the well recognized Horace Mann School in Riverdale. She has been playing tennis since she was five. Indeed, as soon as she could hold a racquet, she was begging for lessons, and finally, her mother signed her up with the Mount Vernon Tennis Center, under the loving guidance of Coach Lennox Dressike. Initially, Coach Lennox only wanted one thing from Gibson and the other kids who signed up for his program. He wanted them to love the game. He said that if they loved it they would learn to play. They loved it, and showed up week after week to learn to play. If they lacked the one-on-one coaching and the access to court time that children in more affluent communities enjoyed, they never noticed. They built friendships on and off the courts and developed a great sense of community where the older players often encouraged and nurtured the younger players.
Unfortunately Mount Vernon’s tennis-loving youth were dealt a difficult blow last year when the city government shut down the center in preparation for development at the neighboring Memorial Field. Sadly, the little community has been dispersed and several promising players have abandoned the sport to pursue more accessible hobbies. 
Fortunately Gibson stuck with tennis. She plays two days per week at in the Concordia Junior program with extra lessons on the weekend with her coach Patrick “Penny” Phiri. On Sundays she wakes up at 5:45 am to make it to New Rochelle by 6:30 am to practice for USTA Jr. Team Tennis with the Mount Vernon team. On Friday nights though, she has the best time. That is when she gets together for an hour with Coach Lennox and six or so of the kids she has always played with to work on drills to improve their skill and consistency. Coach Lennox rents space from the newly constructed Kela Indoor Courts in Mount Vernon, and fills that facility with kids and laughter. And that’s when Gibson always remembers that the most important thing she can do as tennis player is to love the game.