NewGen Racquet Club is set to open its doors to its brand new state of the art facility in April, 2024. Coach Tito Bonadonna, founder of NewGen Tennis Academy and soon to be opened, NewGen Racquet Club, answers key questions we have on our mind. Here is the story of the man and his dream working to bring a brand new racquet club to town, and a new philosophy to coaching, training, and fitness.
Tell us about your background and give me a sense of your upbringing and your first introduction to sports?
I grew up in Venezuela and started playing multiple sports in my younger days. Baseball was the first sport I played, followed by soccer and many others. I started playing tennis at 10 and at 12 years of age, I started to compete in tennis. I was able to play at the Regional and National level.
I went to the University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff and played Division 1 there where I got my first scholarship and then transferred to the Ohio Dominican University right here in Columbus in 2011.
Tell us a little bit about your family? Were they also into fitness and sports? I am trying to understand how you developed a passion for sports.
My parents weren’t into sports a whole lot, but my dad maybe a little bit more than my mom. They would take tennis lessons once a week on a Saturday for fun. I joined the lesson one time and that’s how I picked up on it and began to dedicate myself to tennis.
We’d like to learn about NewGen Racquet Club, which is the precursor to NewGen Tennis Academy. Explain the period between graduation and when you started New Gen Tennis Academy.
My dad always wanted to open up a tennis store in Venezuela. I too wanted to start my own business in something I was passionate about. I never saw myself working in an office or for a company. There is nothing wrong with that, but I wanted to do something that I truly enjoyed, and I wanted to own it and be responsible for it. So in 2017, I decided to start my Academy because it was all of these wishes and dreams put together. I had studied sports management and it was something I’ve done and loved for years and it was relatable to my family. That’s how NewGen Tennis Academy began.
Talk to us about the early days. How did you get started? You didn’t have a facility, you didn’t have a court, you had zero customers, yet you began. How?
In 2017 I was coaching a few kids on the side, about three or four private students, and that’s when I first had to stop working at the club I was employed at.
I started renting Courts at Ohio Dominican. They had stopped their tennis program so their courts were abandoned and were in a very poor condition. I went there and rented the courts. I cleaned up all the courts. They had so much trash and dirt. The shed was breaking apart and it had beehives inside. I cleaned them all. I knew I was chasing my dream and I started communicating with a few of my few private students and everyone else that knew me from the last club I worked at.
I told everyone: “Hey, I’m starting my own thing, come check it out.” I remember the date of my grand opening. It was May 29th, Memorial Day and I was looking forward to it. Only I did not know May 29th is a holiday. Four kids had signed up for May 29th, but no one showed up because it was a holiday.
And then the very next day, it rained so we had to go in the shed and the doors broke and fell apart. We all got super wet on my second day in business.
So to answer your question, I knew people already since I had worked at area clubs for three or four years. I gave multiple lessons in clinics to adults and kids and that’s why I thought okay I could start here. It was very slow in the beginning, but I was grateful for all of this, because the people that were coming genuinely wanted to be there and believed in me and my coaching philosophy. Those people started to refer me to other people and like I said, it started very slow but then it kicked in, in 2020.
You have a philosophy about training kids where it’s not always about tennis or pickleball. You have a deeper definition of training, so could you talk a little bit about your unique approach?
Yes, the mission of the academy is on the website and it is really to develop and help kids and young adults to become human beings with integrity. Some people inculcate these values and skills through teaching science or math or through other means. We do it through sports and tennis and my goal is to help kids become better versions of themselves.
I have developed my own kind of mental philosophy around this concept, so I can help kids be patient when pursuing a passion or goal. And the manifestation of these values started from day one of my classes. These were not just merely tennis coaching sessions. This was about mental training as well. Every week we would have at least one hour of mental training where I would bring us a topic. We would begin with goal setting for the sessions, and I would teach them how to make each other accountable to their goals.
Other training included how to deal with anxiety and stress both on the court and off the court. I also trained them on improving concentration. And the point was to develop these ideas, these “how to” topics, that could help an individual not only as a player on the court but also off the court.
During the pandemic and the quarantine, we could not play. But I continued to have mental training sessions three times a week because we couldn’t play. So yes my ultimate goal is to help kids and young adults become better versions of themselves and I’ve been using tennis as a tool to get us there.
That’s a fascinating philosophy. Talk to us about and what was the motivation behind opening your own Racquet Club in Lewis Center?
The motivation was to grow the academy and the mission that I just described. I also wanted to realize a dream that I had laid out with my dad and my mom of having our own tennis facility. Another dream of mine and one of my personal goals is to help us connect better.
How’s the response been to NewGen Racquet Club opening in our area?
The response has been great. People keep congratulating me and now I have more people telling me they heard about NewGen Racquet Club than me having to tell people about the club. So it sounds like word is spreading on its own.
Could you expand a little more on what you plan to achieve with NewGen Racquet Club?
The facility’s mission at one level is to have people enjoy their workout and have a good time. But it’s really beyond that. What I really want is for people to come to the club and build relationships and memories. We’re living in a world where people are stressed out and are always rushing to get things done. I want NewGen Racquet Club to be a space where people look forward to coming to the club, and can disconnect from the stressors out there, and make deep, meaningful connections with each other, around a sport they enjoy.
The academy is the motor that not only is running the facility but also is the one making a difference in the lives of its members. I want to have a place where people and players and kids come to the academy because they feel like they belong here.
I want them to grow here, gain value from it, learn from it and then go to that world outside, feeling they are stronger and well equipped to manage those stressors and difficulties with greater effectiveness.