Robbie Manzano and Tennis Canberra
Situated in ACT, Tennis Canberra is a vibrant and growing community with programs running across four different venues in the region. Kick-started by tennis coach Robbie Manzano, whose travels abroad and volunteer service helps fuel the community-driven spirit of the club; he knows all too well the value of a healthy and supportive environment.
“I volunteered in Nepal for 3 months, living with a local family and implementing public health projects within the community. (When I) came back to tennis, however, I wasn’t getting that community feel where I was working, so the launch of Tennis Canberra followed after a couple of stressful months.”
Having contributed to improving the social and physical well-being of Nepali residents, Robbie wanted to bring a similar approach back to his home state of the Australian Capital; a culture where social interaction between members existed both on and off the court.
Starting with the local Barton Tennis Club in 2013, Robbie reached out to past students and, on the back of an enthusiastic response, began to spread his coaching program across to other venues. Aside from the traditional junior and adult programs that operated; Robbie introduced community play programs every Friday, which gave residents the opportunity to unwind and mingle in a casual environment.
With the success of these Friday sessions, Robbie quickly realised the potential of an inclusive off-court environment, in conjunction with his regular training regime. His ability to ingratiate himself with the local community stems from a clear understanding of the needs and wants of residents. A place where kids and teens can go afterschool; an opportunity for parents to witness their child’s skills in action; and most important of all, a like-minded community where long-lasting friendships can thrive on sporting participation.
The seamless transition between training sessions and social events, sparked significant growth for the program in 2014.
“With a fast growing player base and a few popular Cardio Tennis sessions the off-court activities started. I was having dinners and attending events with the players I coached. Wednesday dinners started after a day of coaching with our adults organising dinners for everyone in the evening classes. This saw friendships transpire through our tennis programs.”
Tennis Canberra soon acquired three more clubs in the South, North and central City of Canberra (inc. launching programs at the Reid Tennis Club). This followed with an array of open court days and the establishment of a special grassroots program called The Junior Club Teams Challenge; which allowed competing clubs to host friendly game sessions with one another.
In 2015, amidst the buzz of the Australian Open; attendance soared at their training sessions, games and other social events. In June, the club launched their own community program, the ‘Tennis CBR Cares’ initiative; which sponsors local events, raises funds for junior members and provides assistance towards several charity programs.
With all of the success that Tennis Canberra has achieved so far, it seems that Robbie’s initial vision for the club has come true. Perhaps the proudest moment for him though, came in March this year, when he took the opportunity to bring tennis to his parents’ home village in the Philippines. By witnessing the effects of positive social action through his tennis program, then translating that energy back to his own heritage; it was a personal achievement for Robbie.
“It was an amazing experience, as the village my parents grew up in had no idea what tennis was. An extremely poor village by national standards, the kids gathered to see what was happening. Having a ball and a mini-net tennis was an instant hit.”
With the year coming to a close end, Tennis Canberra can proudly reflect on their many achievements made so far. Fuelled not just by mutual love and respect for the game, but also a socially inclusive environment both on and off the court; Tennis Canberra has much to look forward to in 2016.