International Hard Court Tournament presented by Laurel Springs School
Ryan Colby will see academics and athleticism converge in the most unlikely of places this month: on the tennis court.
The young tennis champion — who won the National Clay Court Championships in July to secure a spot in the U.S. Open Junior Championships — will compete this week in an international hard court tournament presented by his school.
Laurel Springs School has partnered with the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) to present the Wayne K. Curry Prince George’s County International Hardcourt ITF Junior Tournament in College Park, Md. The tournament runs from August 23rd to 28th, ranking as one of the International Tennis Federation’s three highest events for junior-level athletes in North America.
The tournament comes one week before Ryan is scheduled to compete at the prestigious U.S. Open Junior Championships. He considers it a prime opportunity to prepare for the national event and to support two organizations that have shaped his upbringing: the JTCC in College Park and Laurel Springs School.
“I feel like I’m supporting College Park and the tournament,” the Laurel Springs junior said.
Based out of College Park, Md., the JTCC seeks to transform lives through tennis. It is recognized as one of the premiere junior tennis programs in the nation. While the organization provides training for all ages, its emphasis is on children. It teaches tennis to toddlers, grade-schoolers, high-school athletes and college students. And yes, academics and athletics converge all the time within the institution.
“We are not just a tennis training facility; we are many other things,” said Mark Santangelo, who serves as Director of School at the JTCC. He works closely with athletic staff to ensure players are meeting their academic requirements. “All of the players who I work with, and their coaches, I’m talking with them all the time. I know what their grades are and [am] ensuring that they’re succeeding.”
Students split their time between school and training, utilizing both the center’s onsite learning and athletic facilities. Full-time student athletes must maintain a certain GPA and be on track to graduate in order to stay in JTCC’s program. Ultimately, their mission is not to create the best tennis players but create the best students.
In 2020, JTCC graduates were awarded more than $900,000 in scholarships and financial aid to leading colleges and universities.
“Our goal is to make sure that everybody is going to use tennis as a way to get into a good college,” Santangelo said. “If some of them happen to go pro that’s fantastic, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to send everybody to school.”
Laurel Springs School has partnered with the JTCC for more than 15 years. The Wayne K. Curry Prince George’s County International Hardcourt ITF Junior Tournament is now in its ninth year, with a one-year break during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This partnership has elevated educational opportunities for our students,” said Ariel Feigenbaum, Senior Director of Partnerships and Business Development at Laurel Springs. “It has been a long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship because we each value elite athletics and rigorous academics.”
The partnership has certainly helped Ryan Colby, who has been playing tennis since the age of four. Ryan was already playing for the JTCC when he started at Laurel Springs in the seventh grade.
Laurel Springs provided him with the flexibility he needed to maintain a rigorous athletic schedule, along with the structure that would allow him to progress toward graduation. The online curriculum allowed him to pursue his education, even while traveling Ryan to multiple countries in Central America to play tennis.
Ryan credits the staff at both the JTCC and Laurel Springs with helping him maintain a structured schedule that balances both his academic and athletic responsibilities.
“I learned a lot from Laurel Springs and having to travel so much it’s definitely helped with time management,” Ryan said.
That’s the magic of Laurel Springs, Feigenbaum said. The school helps student athletes maintain, and increase, their time management skills through a self-paced and mastery-based instructional model.
“They’re able to complete school on their own time, on their own calendar,” she said, “with schedules that allows them the time that they need to focus on their sports and be as dedicated as they need to be in pursuing their passions.”
That dedication will play out on the court this month. Several Laurel Springs students, including Ryan, will compete in the ITF tournament. What makes the tournament a little sweeter for Laurel Springs staff and students is the chance for some interpersonal interaction.
“I’m looking forward to seeing our students in person and watching them compete,” Feigenbaum said. “I’m excited to meet the students in person so I can build relationships.”
Ryan is hoping to apply his skills from JTCC and Laurel Springs to his college education. He recently committed to play tennis at the University of Southern California.
Ryan’s mother, Tina, said no other partnership could have better helped her son to grow into the person he is today.
“Not only did both Laurel Springs and JTCC mentor him,” she said, “they guided him as a human being.”