For the past six years, Kerriann Herdelin has made it her goal to grow the game of tennis in and around Pottstown.
As the executive director of Greater Pottstown Tennis & Learning, Herdelin has put in countless hours to make that mission possible.
“There’s no one more passionate for what we do than Kerriann,” said Maryellen Wilson, the organization’s administrative manager. “She’s the driving force behind what we do. She loves it, she lives it. She’s constantly trying to grow things and make them better.”
Herdelin’s work was rewarded last month when she was honored as the Middle States Local Hero by the United States Tennis Association. The USTA award honors 17 individuals and organizations around the country that are growing tennis at the grassroots level.
“We’re really focusing on preschool and up just to try to keep them (interested) and really trying to grow the program at Pottstown,” Herdelin said.
“Our mission is to offer free or very low cost tennis to make it accessible to any income, any gender, and to special needs,” she added.
Herdelin, a former Niagara University tennis player, joined the program in 2010 after a board member at the Hill School made her aware of GPTL when she was a coach at the school.
In her first year with the Greater Pottstown Tennis & Learning organization, Herdelin estimates about 50 people were involved with the program, mostly through community tennis.
Six years later, she now estimates about 1,600 people are involved with GPTL in some way shape or form, whether that be in an after-school program, one of the year-round clinics, or competing in a league. At the Hill School, 80 kids showed up for a four-week clinic.
Wilson started with the organization in 2009 as a volunteer. She is now the administrative manager and has witnessed the growth.
“It’s grown exponentially,” Wilson said. “I can’t even put a number on it how much it’s grown … and we’re more centered on youth now. Originally it was more adults.”
Herdelin, her husband Chris, who was a Division III All-American at Eastern University, and Wilson, are coaches for GPTL. Along with giving tennis instruction, they are trying to teach other lessons.
In order to do this they follow the National Junior Tennis and Learning curriculum created by tennis legend Arthur Ashe.
The four-week clinic at the Hill School features a different theme every week: diversity, being a team player, understanding rules and embracing fitness. Several different guest instructors such as a diversity tennis leader, a police officer, an athletic trainer and a teacher are scheduled to come to the camp to talk about the themes.
“In order to use tennis as a tool to teach life skills like to be a team player, to be respectful and things that we’re talking about, is that you have to abide by the coaches’ rule,” Herdelin said. “If you can’t do it on a tennis court, how are you going to do it in life? We’re really using (tennis) as a hook.”
On its website, GPTL explains its mission is to “develop the character of young people from all backgrounds through tennis, life skills, educational enrichment and healthy living choices by engaging a supportive community.”
Seeing the results of GPTL’s adaptive needs tennis programs has been one of the most rewarding experiences for Herdelin.
“One parent said to me, ‘You’re actually teaching them the sport,’” Herdelin said. “Usually it’s babysitting. I don’t want to pacify just because these are free clinics. I want to actually add to their lives.”