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Lehigh couple offers tennis mentoring, life lessons

David Kempton
Special to the News Star
Charles Nelson

Andrea and Charles Nelson stepped onto a tennis court 45 years ago and never left, making it a daily occurrence.

The Lehigh Acres couple have mentored thousands of youth and adults, teaching not only the basic skills but life lessons, starting in the Chicago area and for the past two decades, in Lee County.

Andrea Nelson is the Veterans Park tennis director for the Lee County Community Tennis Association on Homestead Road. She serves up an annual menu of clinics, tournaments and trips to professional events throughout the year.

Andrea Nelson

The pride and satisfaction the Nelsons most enjoy is the First Serve Life Skills program started in the Midwest, mirroring golf’s First Tee program.

“We wanted to take the sport we love and give back to the children,” Nelson, 65, said. “We even had Jim Courier help us out.”

Life skills

The Nelsons have developed a Life Skills Program for Kids at Veterans Park, similar to their original concept.

“We teach the kids that everything is possible and more than tennis coach, I sometimes serve as their mother,” Nelson said.

“We also mentor them not to stand around and complain. For example, if a kid says, ‘The courts suck,’ we correct and tell them don’t use those words on my courts,” she said. “They end up having a lot of fun with good discussions.”

Nelson recently took 33 kids and their parents to Key Biscayne for the Miami Open men’s and women’s major tennis tournament.

“This has become our annual signature event, we’ve been making trip since 2004,” she said. “The kids have an unbelievable experience, talking with the pros down on the courts.”

Family affair

The sport is a family affair with son Charles Jr., 38, serving as an instructor.

The family conducts popular summer youth camp for ages 7-18 from June 13 until July 29 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30-11:30 a.m. Cost is $70 weekly or $20 daily.

“We keep an instructor with an average of six to eight students so they can learn faster and really work on their game,” Nelson said. “We will offer camp scholarships as needed.”

“We want the kids to work on just one thing at a time, not trying to do multiple disciplines,” she said. “That’s when they start making mistakes.”

“Playing tennis happened by accident when I was 20, simply saying ‘Let’s go try and play tennis,’ ” she said.

“Today I tell Charles he is my aerobics instructor since he runs my around, always hitting the ball back,” she said. “We play in a mixed doubles tournament a couple times a year.”

Charles Nelson has a 4.5 USTA ranking while Andrea is 3.5. Both are certified instructors by three national organizations.

More information

Call 239-603-4702 or email tennisdirectorveterans@lccta.com