The BTA was formed in 1992 and received the Community Tennis Association of the Year Award from the Georgia Tennis Association in 1995. Bainbridge is a small farming community in the southwest corner of the state.
In 1985 Bainbridge Leisure Services held the first Bainbridge/Engelhard Sanctioned Tournament. The Tournament Directors’ Workshop was a must, so the City of Bainbridge began sending a representative to the annual meeting. It was here that we learned of the other programs that the GTA sponsored. Each year a new program was started in Bainbridge in order to increase Bainbridge participation.
As the City of Bainbridge programs began to grow, the school systems allotted court time began to narrow. With both middle schools having teams, the varsity boys and girls having teams as well as a high school B-team, it was recognized that the school system needed a set of courts. The superintendent agreed to a location, which happened to be adjacent to property owned by the City of Bainbridge. This was the beginning of the combined effort between the City of Bainbridge, Decatur County, and the Decatur County School Board to build and eight-court complex.
A local engineer and contractor drew up court site plans and estimated cost. We gave our state representative a site plan, cost estimates, and local tennis background as well as tennis needs. Our state representatives were able to secure state funding in the form of a local assistance grant for $25,000. In 1994 and 1995 the Department of Natural Resources appropriated grant funds to provide financial assistance to local governments for the enhancement of public recreation. This grant was made known to all recreation departments. Our school system wrote and agreed to match the $15,000 Human Resources Grant. The City had to apply for the grant.
At this point the City also agreed to clearing, grading, and hauling. In the meantime, a survey was conducted of persons participating in the City tennis programs to determine the percentage of non-city residences participating. The chairman of the county commission was approached and he recognized the number of tennis players who were county residents only. Shortly thereafter, the county budgeted $25,000 for the tennis court complex. Everything fell into place:
- $25,000 from the state.
- $15,000 matching Human Resources Grant.
- $15,000 matched from the School Board.
- $25,000 budgeted from the County.
- Clearing, grading, and hauling from the City.
- Local contractor providing expert advice and additional funds. A local businessman and contractor took charge. All major bodies worked together for a common goal.
Our representatives worked with us to secure another $10,000 from the state for the much needed lights. At the opening ceremonies of the tennis courts, which were named the Carole Simpson Floyd Complex, the turnout by our Junior Tennis Team players, headed by Ruthe Spivey, particularly helped to stimulate the chairman of the county commission to suggest the county would be willing to match funds with the City and School in order to finish the lighting project. In 1996, a pavilion was added between courts through private donation monies and the City labor force.
The City Leisure Services began looking into grant money available through the Georgia Tennis Association for beginning tennis programs. Through the NJTL grant, our city introduced tennis to 35 to 40 minority children. Local minority volunteer talking to the kids about education and self-worth followed the court time. A local company began assisting with additional funds so that presently we are able to supply the kid’s racquets, t-shirts, water bottles, lip balm, drinks, instruction, and an ice cream/pool party at the end.
The STA sent a school representative, Kelly Coleman, to conduct a wonderful workshop for all the PE personnel at the elementary schools, the middle schools, and the high school. They now have lesson plans and the on-hand knowledge of how to teach tennis skills. The STA provided 60 rackets to the program. Also during this time a young tennis professional came to visit and look over our present situation. He has since moved to Bainbridge and is working toward improving our skill level as well as providing enthusiasm to the community tennis programs. We are pleased to have Travis Debardelaben as a part of our active tennis program.
In a city of approximately 10,000 and a county of less than 30,000, we presently have 16 USTA adult league teams. Through grant money, in 1995 we began offering the Play Tennis America Program, which introduced people to the sport of tennis. This is an ongoing program, which has moved players into league tennis. Through the City of Bainbridge and Bainbridge Tennis Association’s support, all of the following are programs offered on a continual basis:
USTA Adult Leagues NJTL program (locally known as the BEST Program)
USTA Mixed Doubles League USTA Community Tennis Association (BTA)
USTA Junior Team Tennis North Florida/ South Georgia Ladies League
USA 123 for Adults Professional lessons and clinics
BMW Combo Junior Team Tennis
Summer Sizzler USA 123 for kids
Polar Bear Tournament for Adults Bainbridge/Charter House Junior Tournament
Money Tree Junior Championships
This sport of a lifetime has certainly caught on in Bainbridge, Georgia.
The lion’s share of the success can be directly linked to the organization of programs as well as the education of volunteers that GTA and STA have extended to this isolated area of the state. With the help of their programming, more courts were needed. Now people in Bainbridge are enjoying being together, exercising, and having fun through tennis.
In l998 and 1999, Bainbridge hosted the District MXD Tournament. This was the first team event that has been held south of Macon. The city and the BTA were involved in a full year of planning. Through the combined efforts of the entire city, the MXD players left here knowing they were special. The Southern Tennis Association recognized our efforts and we were awarded the Southern Team Event of 1998. Also in 1999 the Georgia District Board of Directors traveled to Bainbridge for their spring meeting. They enjoyed a riverboat cruise down the Flint River compliments of Max Langston, local Pepsi Dealer, to Jack Wingate’s Fishing Restaurant/Lodge.
At the 2000 Southern meeting, Bainbridge was awarded the Regional MXD Tournament to be held in November. Because of the tourism that tennis has brought to our city, the City Council has approved the building of another 12 to 16-court complex. We are presently looking at other facilities and court management possibilities. We appreciate the support of the GTA and STA and look forward to our continued marriage.
January brought cold weather & tennis enthusiasts to Bainbridge for the 5th annual Polar Bear Tournament. Over 120 players turned out for this adult tournament held over MLK weekend.
An umpire’s clinic was held in February and the adult league season got underway. March and April always are our busiest tennis months with the Charter House Junior Tournament, Rotary Team Tournament, BHS tennis matches and the men’s and ladies adult league matches all vying for courts.
April also was the beginning month of our tennis director & tennis Pied Piper of juniors, Travis DeBardelaben. A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Travis brings lots of enthusiasm and knowledge of the game to Bainbridge and the surrounding area. He and his wife/teacher Laura are a great addition to our community.
May and June were devoted to BMW Combo and kicking off the summer MXD League season. Because of our new Tennis Director, juniors became an important aspect of city programs once again. Lots of beginner children’s clinics, summer swim and tennis camps, multicultural clinics, USA 123 and adult social nights began to fill the tennis calendar.
During August, the city of Bainbridge & BTA were hosts to the state BMW Combo doubles tournament. Thea Burke, BTA Combo Coordinator, and Amanda Coker, director of Main Street Tourism, were instrumental in the development of our local festivities. Directly following this event, many of our MXD teams went to Macon for the state MXD tournament.
September began with Travis coordinating our Money Tree Junior Tournament and beginning to show the development of many of his juniors. Meeting other professionals in the area has developed and set the stage for continued growth of all our juniors and the networking that has taken place is beginning to take hold.
This year continued to be very exciting for tennis in Bainbridge. It opened up with approximately 100 adults playing singles and doubles in the annual Polar Bear Tournament, as well as the Bainbridge High School Valentine mixed doubles tournament.
In April, Bainbridge hosted the Georgia State Senior Hard court championships. Approximately, 60 players from all over the state came to Bainbridge for a weekend of good tennis and good weather. A fish fry was held for the players to get to know each other better.
Since May was tennis month, the BTA hosted a carnival with over 200 people attending. We fed pizza to the players and kids and adults had a good time with all the games that were being played. Just about everyone walked away with a prize.
Our leagues played throughout the year with many of the Bainbridge teams going to the state level of play, and we had 2 men’s teams compete in the Regional Combo Tournament with one of the teams winning the whole event. We had over 550 participants in league play.
Our city tennis professional, Travis DeBardalaben, stayed very busy throughout the year. He conducted many 123 clinics for juniors and adults, as well as free verification clinics, multicultural clinics, swim and tennis summer camp, and evening fun nights. Travis has really made a difference in the Junior program, as can be seen by the fact that over 50 juniors played team tennis, and over 130 juniors competed in the two local championship tournaments that were played in Bainbridge.
In October, Bainbridge had perfect weather when about 13 teams came to compete in the Super Senior State Tournament. We held a fish fry and really showed Southern hospitality to 100 players.
Our city and BTA continue to work together to bring about positive tennis growth. Our mayor, city council, city manager, leisure services director and tennis director recognize the importance that volunteers play in the development of a successful tennis program. Because we do not compete but accent each other’s strong points, we will continue to reach heights and therefore set new goals each year.
2003 was a fast and furious year. Many new things happened and again, these accomplishments could not be possible without the cooperation of the City of Bainbridge and the BTA and tennis professional Travis DeBardelaben.
Nowadays, it is next to impossible to find an available court, especially in the afternoon when the junior programs are going on. We increased our Junior Team Tennis participation numbers this year. We took 4 Junior teams to the State competition and had to place extra kids on teams from surrounding areas. We had one team advance to the Georgia/Florida competition. Tennis has become a year round sport for many of these juniors, with many of them starting to give up other sports to focus on tennis.
In January, we hosted the 6th annual Polar Bear adult tournament, and had Steve Prangley, Executive Director of the GTA, and his wife come for a visit and participate in the tournament. Everyone had a good time during the weekend, especially at the player’s party where many prizes were awarded and there was free food for everyone.
Adult League participation increased by 17% this year. Much of this increase is due to the fact that USA 123 programs are running year round, and, therefore; we have added new 2.5 and 3.0 teams. Senior League participation increased by over 300%; with this increase being due to a grant received to host senior clinics. Through these clinics, we have been able to add teams and one team advanced to the State tournament played in Albany this year.
The summer was kicked off with a carnival in May. Lots of tennis was played that night, along with prizes and food, and older junior players provided a babysitting service.
The summer was full of clinics and camps for the junior players. The ever-popular Swim and Tennis camp was full for both sessions. Many of the kids enjoyed it so much, that they now participate in year round clinics.
The year culminated with a first ever awards banquet. The evening was very special, and the BTA had no idea what to expect. We planned on feeding dinner to approximately 80 people. The entrance fee to the banquet was a toy for the city Christmas toy drive. Over 120 people attended and there was a mad scramble to find enough seats for every one. Various awards were given out that evening to captains, junior players, and volunteers. During the evening, Christmas music was provided by junior players who are also in their school bands. It was an evening to remember and will become an annual event.
Again, 2003 was a very positive year for the growth of tennis in Bainbridge. We look forward to the New Year and all the possibilities it will present us.
These years have flown by. Travis continues to grow league players and particularly has focused on juniors. He has a great base of players and works out of the Potter Street facility both with his lessons and with junior clinics.
The city began to discuss the possibility of a 14 court facility to be located at the Bill Reynolds Sports Park. Travis worked with a local engineer and helped him design not only the layout of the courts but also the building and storage area.
In the fall of 2006, the Bill Reynolds Tennis Complex was opened just in time for the State Combo Tournament. The 14 court facility is awesome and is an example of what a city and tennis association can do once they combine their talents.
Players from all over the state came to play and compete in Bainbridge. The Combo Tournament was capped off with a wonderful player party down at the Chamber of Commerce. Our weather has been most cooperative and the help from the city to pull off this size tournament is beyond comparison from any other city recreation department in the state.
These past few years have been challenging for Travis but also rewarding. He has had to teach from more than ideal facilities but was rewarded with a wonderful state of the art tennis facility that he was hands on in designing. Much credit and accolades needs to go to the city for seeing tennis as an avenue to increase tourism and therefore making an economic impact on the city.
Travis Debardelaben has been the city tennis director for 7 years now. Recently he took a job in Auburn, Alabama with the city and university combined court facility. The city was fortunate to hire Derek Ameel to replace him. Derek comes from the Atlanta area and both he and his wife are teaching professionals.
Derek jumped into a busy spring tennis season and has been the leading force behind upgrading the BTA and City Tennis website. He brings with him years of teaching experience especially focusing on high performance tournament players. Julia, who played at Georgia Southwestern, was born and raised in Brazil and loves working with children of all ages.
As we move forward with our tennis players, Derek and Julia will lead us to developing both league and social play at the Bill Reynolds Sports Complex.
Update Fall of 2017
Wow!! Have I ever been a slacker! Yes, Bainbridge Tennis is still here and stronger than ever.
Derek and Julia left after only one year to return to Michigan where he would be teaching tennis to college students planning to make a career as a tennis instructor.
Tim Thompson and his wife Helen Jean came to Bainbridge from Tallahasse, Fla by way of Atlanta, Georgia. Tim has bio on the Bainbridge Tennis website. Tim has been a part of the community for 8 years now. He is tournament director for the local junior tournaments and in particular he helped to develop the Georgia Alabama Championships held in March of each year. Tim also is tournament director for any state championships that we bid on and are awarded.
Tim sits on the BTA BOD and helps to coordinate the Bainbridge Decatur County Recreation Authority(BDCRA) and league tennis programs. He holds a number of tennis and swim camps in the summer and works with the other program directors to help enhance the quality of life in Bainbridge through recreation. He instructs our day leagues and provides lessons from tiny tots to seniors. Tim is responsible for the upkeep of the 3 facilities under the BDCRA and all scheduling of courts go through him.
Recently the City and County Governments came together to form the Bainbridge Decatur County Recreation Authority to oversee the continued growth and development of recreation in Bainbridge. This was a big move for recreation in Bainbridge and Al Kelly is the Executive Director. There are 3 appointees from the county and 3 from the city. We anticipate lots of growth in recreation with plans to introduce pickle ball, soccer ball, volley ball, bocce ball along with all the other team sports that are presently available.
This past year the BDCRA was awarded $60,000 from a trust to begin a Education and tennis academy. Level UP! is designed to focus on enhancing a child’s academic opportunities outside the classroom. This high quality instruction opportunity will teach children about good sportsmanship and commitment through introducing them to the lifelong game of tennis. Our focus will be to teach good citizenship, the importance of an education, and create exercise skills that will follow them throughout their lives.
Program activities include: Classroom time consisting of volunteer opportunities, crafts, exposure to local leadership; Wellness, nutrition and fitness education; and high level tennis instruction from a tennis professional in areas such as eye hand coordination, creative movement, agility drills, racquet drills and match play.
This new Bainbridge-Decatur County Recreation Program is being offered through a trust. This opportunity is being offered at no cost. Racquets, t-shirts, visors and balls will be provided. There is a parent student contract to be signed with emphasis on attendance, good behavior and interest in nutrition, physical activity and tennis.
If you and your child are interested we encourage you to complete the Student Registration form and Parent/Student contract and return the forms to Bainbridge Decatur County Recreation Authority – Located next to Riverbend Ford or you may email the completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past year the BTA was awarded, through USTA Georgia, the Team Tennis Event of the Year for the Southern Combo Championships that were held in the fall of 2015. Also at the same awards ceremony last year, Amy Thomas was recognized as Tennis Coach of the Year. We are extremely proud of both of these awards. In February of 2017, Carole Floyd was put into the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame for her continued effort in promoting tennis throughout the community for the past 35 years.
Update Spring 2018
The BTA continues to strive for excellence. At the USTA Georgia annual meeting in January, Bainbridge was recognized for their excellent leadership in three areas. Male Captain of the year for the entire state was Glen Heard, Volunteer of the Year was Babs Coyle and League Coordinator of the Year was Tabitha Spooner. All three of these people are instrumental to our organization and continue to help Bainbridge Tennis stay active and organized.
Tim Thompson along with Amy Thomas, high school tennis coach, and others have helped JTT to be a part of our current program. Our kids enjoy competing against other players in the area and it is only through the efforts of the parents and the organization of Tim and Amy that teams are formed and match play happens. Both our girls’ and boys teams won our region play and the girls team made it to the elite 8 this year.
Bainbridge was awarded the Georgia Southern Combo tournament which will be help the last weekend in October of 2018 and 2019. Babs Coyle will be the go to person for much of the organization and Tim will be the Tournament Director. We will have numerous teams participating locally in this state tournament. Also for the first time, Valdosta will hold the State MXD Tournament in August and we anticipate many of our teams to compete.
Babs Coyle was asked to be on the BDCRA Board along with Carole Floyd. The board is planning to build an indoor Recreation Facility closer to the Bill Reynolds Tennis Facility. This should increase activity at the baseball fields as well as the tennis courts. Babs, ED of BTA, holds Sunday Fundays periodically which is a great mixer for every level. Babs is also responsible for bringing a meet and great to pickleball in June at the BRTC.
The Level Up program is continuing to strengthen. We received $96,000 from the trust in January to reach out to children in the area to offer them tennis and to enhance their civic responsibilities. Carolyn Newberry is the lead education instructor and Melanie Feliz is the executive director of the program. This coming fall we will be selecting kids from 3rd-8th grade to be involved in our program. This program is free to the children selected but there our some responsibilities on the children and parents participating. Attendance, good behavior and dress (wearing the Level Up t-shirt and visor) are key factors to being rewarded at the end of the fall and spring sessions.
We are also excite to announce that three JTT Teams will be competing at the Sate level in Macon July 20-22nd.
As fall of 2017 begins, our tennis courts are full and we will be offering beginner clinics to juniors and adults. Please come out and be a part of this great sport. If you want more information about what we have to offer, call 229-248-2020.