'Big kid' loves teaching kids to play tennis
Rockport — Noah Capetta did not play tennis until he was a sophomore in high school, but he has been making up for lost time ever since.
Capetta, a tennis pro at Midcoast Recreation Center (MRC), received the Maine Tennis Association's Junior Player Development Award Jan. 24 for his work with young people. At the same event, MRC Director of Tennis and Sports Programming Seth Meyer was recognized as Tournament Director of the Year and the facility was named Indoor Club of the Year.
Capetta grew up in Hermon and loved baseball as a youth. After he was introduced to tennis, “I just sort of played obsessively,” he said. In his twenties, he worked at indoor tennis clubs in Portland and Bangor as a desk clerk so he could play tennis for free during the winter, and taught privately in the summer.
As a desk clerk, he enjoyed watching tennis players of all ages and abilities and got interested in teaching. He found he had a natural ability as a teacher and coach, and did some high school coaching.
Now he teaches children from 4 years old up through high school, and also works with adults. Inspired by his 2-year-old daughter, Ella, Capetta is working on a tennis curriculum for toddlers. Racquets for the youngest players have a close-to-normal-size head with a very short grip, and the players hit balloons.
“It doesn't look much like tennis,” he said, but helps to teach young children balance and coordination.
MRC breaks up its youth tennis classes by age: 4 to 6, 6 to 10, middle school and high school. Capetta is also on the board of the Maine Tennis Association, where he serves on a sub-committee for junior tennis, and he is the lead coordinator for a United States Tennis Association Junior Team Tennis League for players from 12 to 18 years old.
He said tennis offers many benefits to youngsters, beyond a healthy workout. The game teaches focus, sportsmanship, respect for oneself and others, and poise under pressure, he said. He works with his players to help them handle the emotions that come up during play.
“In competition, the best and the worst come out of you.”
He stressed that while seeing players improve is rewarding, he is not out to develop the next Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams.
“I like working with every individual,” he said.
What he values most is his relationships with students, Capetta said. One of his young players is talented but has trouble concentrating. At Christmastime, the boy and his mother came to see Capetta at MRC and the youth told his mom, “I saved up $100, and I really wanted to buy Noah a tennis racquet for Christmas.”
The relationships continue even after students leave the area. Capetta told of one former student who came back to visit and introduced his girlfriend to “my mentor.”
Capetta and his wife, Kathleen Fleury, who is the editor in chief at Downeast Magazine, live in Camden.
He said one thing that helps him relate well to younger players is that “I'm a big kid, really.”