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Castillo adopts "Nice as ICE" approach to tennis

October 9, 2016 06:25 PM

By Arthur L. Mack, special to USTA.com

MOBILE, Ala. A unique approach to tennis is allowing players to be able to improve their skills and have plenty of fun.

"Improvement, Community and Enjoyment" (ICE) was created by Jesse Castillo, a member of the Northern California Section team competing in the USTA League Adult 18 & Over 3.5 National Championships at the Copeland-Cox Tennis Center. Castillo also handled all administrative aspects for the team at Nationals after captain Kevin Ong was unable to make it to Mobile. Having recently moved to Half Moon Bay, just 30 minutes south of San Francisco, Castillo noticed the potential for a major tennis community in the town.

“I got involved with one of the USTA teams there and played the League season. One of the things I noticed is that it was a small community and being competitive was tough,” said Castillo. “I also noticed that there were lots of people who were interested in tennis but not involved. I discovered what held people back is that they felt that they were not good enough players, so this notion of improvement got into my head.”

Castillo said he found one way of getting players in the game and helping them improve was to create a second team.

“There has always been a mixed team in every season at Half Moon Bay, so I got it into my head to start a second team for a 40-and-over mixed league. I wanted to do it in a way that encouraged people who felt they were not good enough or were left out all together,” he explained. "I wanted to encourage improvement but also community and team and make it fun."

Thus, the concept of ICE was formed. Castillo captained the team and put his plan into motion.

“I registered a 40-and-over team and called it 'More ICE,'” he said. “It was great. We didn’t do that well in terms of our record, but I had one lady on the team who I partnered up with in one of our matches, and she told me this was the most fun team she’s been on in 20 years of playing USTA Leagues. That was the best compliment that has been given to me."

During team practices, Castillo will bring out a ball machine for drills and incorporate both doubles tactics and strategy. Over time, the 2.5 and 3.0 women on his teams have grown increasingly comfortable at the net.

As their improvement became visible to others, the word spread and more people got involved. An additional 3.0 team of primarily younger players was added and fittingly called "Fresh ICE," which he also captained.

“That team made it to Sectionals in Northern California,” said Castillo. “Even though they lost, everybody had an awesome time. We had so many people on that team, and it was their first time in any kind of championship event. I’m thrilled at their joy in participating in matches."

Castillo has also gained players through a program called "Get Connected," which is available whenever a captain registers a USTA League team online in Northern California. But through sheer numbers and the progress his teams have made, it’s safe to say he won’t struggle to find players anytime soon.

“I’m happy that people are being involved in this friendly, yet competitive environment,” sad Castillo. “The whole team aspect is awesome, and there’s such a big social component to it. I really feel blessed to have impacted my community even a little bit. It’s a real thrill for me, and there’s a sense of fulfillment in getting these people involved together.”