Hamilton an ace as FDA tennis coach

Published 5:30 pm Friday, March 24, 2017

Jennie Katz Hamilton has come full circle. Once a top player on FDA’s championship tennis teams in 1996 and 1997, Hamilton now coaches tennis at the school and hopes to carry on the school’s tradition of excellence in the sport.

In the 1990s, Jennie Katz Hamilton was one of Fort Dale Academy’s top tennis players. Hamilton was first seed on the FDA team in her sophomore through senior years, with the team winning the state AISA championship in 1996 and 1997.

Now she’s the head coach for her alma mater’s tennis team. Coming full circle, says Hamilton, is simply a blast.

“I’ve been playing tennis since I was old enough to hold a racket,” Hamilton says with a sunny grin. “It was a family sport. I remember my dad taking us to the Dunklins’ court and chasing balls for us. I’ve been teaching it for 16 years now and I love this group. I’ve actually been working with some of them since they were itty-bitty.”

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The school’s varsity tennis team, composed of 11 girls and 8 boys, has lost only one match out of the first six played during Hamilton’s inaugural year on the job, with three matches still to be played.

Coach Hamilton just wants to carry on the tradition.

“Fort Dale has a history of having a really good tennis program. And this town has a real presence within the tennis community,” Hamilton says. “The Greenville Area Community Tennis Association does a great job of promoting the sport here and in the summer we have the regular Monday games . . . keeps you in practice and it’s just fun.”

Hamilton herself has been part of the Alabama Tennis Academy for four summers, as well as tennis camps for St. James Academy and the Montgomery Academy. She also had her own Hamilton Ace Camp one year in Greenville.

“I have also been a member of several Montgomery area teams and attended several clinics over the years,” Hamilton says.

“I feel it is a way to keep learning, to stay sharp and to bring back things I can share with my students—and it’s also a great way to make friends within the tennis community.”

She also values the camaraderie developed among the families of her tennis team members. Call it tailgating, tennis style.

“The matches are fun social events for the parents and siblings. Everyone turns out, brings snacks . . . when we had a couple of matches in cold weather, we had portable heaters out there to keep warm. They have a really good time,” Hamilton says with a smile.

And she believes her B Team, as FDA’s 6th grade players are referred to, will be bringing an “A” game to the varsity in the coming years.

“We have a big group on the B Team and they are all champing at the bit to play,” Hamilton explains. “And some of them are really good.”

And there are more potential tennis stars in the making at FDA.

“We have a number of fourth grade students who are showing a lot of interest and talent as well,” says the tennis coach. “If a child is interested in tennis when they are as young as five or six, they are old enough to start pursuing it.”

Having top-notch city courts available in the Camellia City has made a huge difference for tennis players both in and outside of the community, Hamilton says.

“We have people from schools in other towns who want to come here and play their matches in Greenville. It’s such a great centralized location and very easy to access due to the interstate,” she explains.

If a coach’s job satisfaction can help guarantee success for his or her players, then Fort Dale Academy’s tennis team will like have more championship seasons in its future.

“Coaching is addictive and I love it,” Hamilton says. “When I am out there with my team, it’s so exciting and fun.”