- Associated Press - Saturday, July 4, 2020

WATKINSVILLE, Ga. (AP) - For the past 10 years, husband and wife tennis duo Michael and Debbie Beck of the Beck Tennis Academy have taught lessons intended to develop young athletes interested in improving their competitive tennis at any level.

Though the Becks previously worked out of the Jennings Mill Country Club, since the spring they have moved to teaching and conditioning from several private courts in the Clarke-Oconee area.

“We started Beck Tennis Academy in 2010. We’ve worked with well over 700 kids in that period of time,” Michael said. “Our long term plan is to find or build a new facility in the Clarke-Oconee area that will serve our existing clientele and students.”

Their academy has produced a substantial amount of talent and has been a catalyst to the success of the North Oconee tennis program. The Titans, with players who mostly came through the Beck Academy, captured three straight Class 4A girls titles from 2016-18 and back-to-back boys titles the past two seasons.

Both were favorites for another state championship this past season when the coronavirus pandemic shut down high school athletics.



As sports begin to reboot amid the rising cases of coronavirus in the state, according to Michael, “One of the great things about tennis is that it’s a safe sport relative to other sports and activities. We stopped offering large, long group clinics and private lessons during this pandemic, but kids have been able to play safely.”

Both Michael and Debbie have been around tennis their entire lives and met one another while playing at Emory College. Both went on to become certified teaching pros by the United States Professional Tennis Association, with Michael being cited as a high performance coach.

Debbie was later an assistant coach for the University of Georgia women’s tennis team from 1995 to 2004, her reason for stepping down being that she wanted to spend more time with her family.

The Becks didn’t stay away from the game of tennis, however, with their children Chloe and Nicholas playing themselves.

“Just getting on the courts playing with my family has obviously meant so much to me,” Chloe said. “My parents never pushed me into (tennis), but I feel like with any sport, whatever level you want to take it to, that internal desire has to be there.”

Chloe knows first hand what this dedication entails as she enters her sophomore year on the Duke tennis team. In 2019, she won the Junior French Open Doubles championship and finished runner-up in the 2019 Junior Australian Open Doubles championship.

Since her rookie season at Duke was cut short in March, Chloe has been back at home practicing six days a week with kids from the academy and a couple of players from the UGA women’s tennis team.

“We have very solid practices, obviously, because (UGA is) one of the top programs in the country as well…I’m doing pretty much the same thing I did back at school but in a different setting,” Chloe said.

Understanding this drive, when the lockdown first began, Michael offered morning conditioning to kids each day of the week.

“We had a small group of dedicated kids that wanted to stay in condition and keep training, so they would be there bright and early running sprints, jumping rope, doing plyometrics for an hour,” he said.

The reason for continuing to offer this, according to Michael, was that the initial training in the morning “seemed to give us some purpose in a very chaotic world and I think it really helped the kids that came out by giving them a feeling of accomplishment during such a crazy time.”

As the Becks continue their search for a permanent venue for the academy, it is their love of the sport and the memories they’ve shared that keep their program strong moving forward.

As Michael said, “Tennis more than any other sport, teaches problem solving and resilience….What makes me most proud is to see former students and instructors go on to have success and to know that we were a part of their lives is exciting.”

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