Every day before she goes into work, USPTA Professional Neely Zervakis recites one line as part of her daily routine.
“Inspire excellence, create opportunities, connect the community and foster a positive, lifelong impact through tennis,” reads the vision statement of the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
“I’m pretty big on our vision,” said Zervakis, the associate director at MNTC. “That really drives all these extra activities we do.”
The slate of programming at MNTC is impressive. They host two USTA-sanctioned junior tournaments per month and have adult programs, junior programs, USTA early development camps and other social events with programs from around the region. They also put on a slew of special events, all to execute that vision.
“We had the very first camp and it went really great and we’re thankful [ACEing Autism] let us be creative,” said Zervakis, who is also the Williamsburg ACEing Autism program director. “We can’t wait to do it again from January 6th through the 10th.”
MNTC also has a Junior ladder and a People’s Playlist, which lets players sign up for a time that works for them and pairs them with other players at their same level. She said there’s been a noticeable increase in participation since they started it this summer.
Zervakis has been a USPTA member for five years and is involved with the Mid-Atlantic Division U30 program.
“It’s given me an opportunity to connect with talented coaches that I can collaborate and share ideas with,” she said.
Zervakis has played tennis since age 3 when her grandparents introduced her to the sport, and played D-I at Radford University. She’s been at MNTC going on nine years, but first started coaching when she was in high school. She’s dedicated herself to growing MNTC, empowering players and coaching junior tennis ever since.
“She embodies so many qualities that make a great coach, like a positive attitude and passionate enthusiasm,” said Emma Doyle, a tennis coach, motivational speaker and Zervakis’ mentor. “She is extremely creative in designing fun lessons for her players that will ultimately make them lifelong tennis players.”
That dedication shows in her compassionate and creative coaching style. It shows in her dedication to events like the Charity Tennis Classic and in the special events she organizes, like Halloween Fest and the Thanksgiving turkey tournament.
“We do an annual holiday event where we make cards, each year we do a different community or charity,” she said. “We always do military. Last year we did the Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice. We’ll go to the local nursing homes and deliver the cards with the kids and the coaches.
“Those events all drive off our vision and our values: Teamwork, Fun, Growth, Respect.”
Along with the other three tennis pros on staff, she’s helped create a family environment where players that go through the program come back and volunteer to help with the younger ones.
“That’s something we’re really proud of,” she said. “A big part of it is just making it a place where kids want to be. A lot of them volunteer for different programs, a lot of them come and help out with the younger classes if they get into the next class and I think that’s a big part of it, feeling like they have a responsibility and they can give back and they can make a difference in a place that’s made a difference in their lives.”