The Sea Colony tennis center offers world-class facilities and instruction to every kind of tennis enthusiast
World-class tennis is just a drop shot from the beach.
At the crossroads of Kent Avenue and West Way Drive, just south of Bethany Beach and a little more than half a mile to the surf, the Sea Colony tennis center offers exceptional facilities and top-notch instruction for all ages and skill levels — homeowners, guests and coastal Delaware and Maryland’s tennis-playing public — every day of the year.
That’s right, the public is welcome — and encouraged — to play tennis at Sea Colony.
“One of our challenges is the perception that we are an exclusively private club,” said Sea Colony Tennis Director Thomas Johnston, USPTA, PTR and the current USTA Delaware Pro of the Year. “That’s not the case. Our camps, clinics, private lessons and round robins — all of our adult and junior programs throughout the year — are open to homeowners and guests, as well as our neighbors, tennis players visiting for the weekend, and homeowners in surrounding communities. We want more people to play tennis year-round and to grow the game in this unique resort area.”
Two years ago, Sea Colony homeowners invested in a seven-figure extensive renovation and expansion of the complex, which added two indoor courts, updated the pro shop and upgraded the upstairs lounge and observation areas to include coverage of the outdoor courts — front and back.
Today, the Sea Colony Tennis Center on Racquet Lane is home to 26 of the resort community’s 34 courts, including six indoor hard, six outdoor hard and 14 Har-Tru clay courts, as well as four lit until 10 p.m. The updated, full-service pro shop offers racquets, shoes, apparel and racquet services by an in-house certified master stringing technician.
It’s a complex equal to its regional, national and global reputation.
In the last half-decade, under Johnston’s leadership, Sea Colony has enhanced its reputation as one of the nation’s finest tennis destinations. In May, Tennis Resorts Online’s annual Top 100 camps and resorts reader poll named Sea Colony the No. 9 tennis camp in the world and No. 5 for best junior programs, as well as a Top 50 resort. In 2012, the facility was named an Outstanding Facility of the Year by the USTA. Also in that year, Tennis listed Sea Colony as one of its Top 50 American Resorts and No. 3 in the Mid-Atlantic.
Johnston brought an impressive resume to the job. Prior to the Sea Colony gig, he was the tennis director at an acclaimed resort in Central Virginia, before that he was the head men’s tennis coach at The University of Virginia. With a master’s degree in sports psychology, Johnston’s approach to the game is holistic, focusing on the mind and body, developing the love of the game in players of all ages.
“I’m privileged to make a living in tennis — the sport that has been my lifelong love,” said Johnston, a three-time All-American during his college days in California. “It’s rewarding to share the love of the game with the thousands of players who hit our courts each year. I’m so grateful to the Sea Colony homeowners for allowing me to do just that.”
The center’s experienced and talented group of teaching professionals includes Head Pro Austin Longacre, USPTA, PTR, whose journey to the resort courts began as an elite junior — he won the Pennsylvania singles state championship in 2006 — and continued through the University of Delaware, where he graduated with the most singles wins in school history. After graduation, he worked as a college coach and a teaching professional. Rounding out the year-round teaching team is Evan Katz, USPTA, who grew up playing and coaching on Sea Colony’s courts and was a standout player at Wilkes University.
During the summer season, the club adds eight additional teaching pros and offers 51 clinics each week, ranging from cardio to adult stroke of the day, little hitters to tournament tough for juniors and evening sessions to doubles-specific training, as well as five round robins.
In the fall, winter and spring, the core certified teaching-professional team of Johnston, Longacre and Katz offer daily daily stroke-of-the-day and Cardio Tennis, as well as weekend tennis camps. All of these programs, as well as private lessons, are open to the public.
More than a dozen tournaments, from USTA juniors to a $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit Women’s event, are contested on the resort’s courts each year.
A new off-season membership structure rolls out this fall, allowing more opportunity for area residents to play tennis year-round. The revamped membership plan is available for a $150 initial fee, then $10 each time a member plays.
Running from October 1 through April 30, memberships include block times, deals on private lessons, discounts in the pro shop and, perhaps most attractive to prospective members, weekend access to the courts on a space-available basis. An unlimited play option is also available.
Juniors are the future of the game, and Sea Colony is committed to continuing its tradition of producing top juniors and college players. When summer is done, youngsters, tweens and teens from West Ocean City, Salisbury, Ocean Pines, Berlin, Rehoboth Beach, Millsboro and as far away as Dover converge on the center for after-school tennis academies.
With an emphasis on fun in a fast-paced tennis environment, combining drills, live ball play, fitness, matches and games, the two-hour Tournament Tough and hour-and-a-half Futures sessions are held Monday through Thursday, with regular weekend match play that puts their skills to the test. On Wednesdays, Little Hitters focuses on 45 minutes of fun for the youngest players, ages 4-7.
Eight junior USTA tournaments are contested on the resort courts each year, offering opportunities for competitive play. Half a dozen boys and girls finished 2014 with Top 15 USTA Delaware rankings including Julianna “JJ” Johnston, then 10, (yes, daughter of the tennis director), who wrapped up the year as the top Under-12 Girls (G12) player in the First State. Others earning high year-end rankings were Annika Larsen (No. 3, G12), Abigail Plylar (No. 6, G12), Noah Fisher (No. 12, B12), Xan Johnston (No. 14, B14) and Cedric Barnes (No. 3, B18).
Combining beach getaways with opportunities to improve their games, weekend tennis camps are the core of the tennis team’s business from September through May. Popular with USTA League teams, high school squads and groups of friends, these camps include eight hours of instruction over three days, featuring fast-paced drills, low player-to-pro ratios and plenty of one-on-one instruction, plus video analysis, strategy, shot selection, tactics to improve mental toughness, match-play coaching, and more. Mid-week camps and custom schedules are available on request.
SEA COLONY TENNIS CENTER
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