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July 15, 2013 07:46 PM
Paula_Martin_and_some_of_her_JTT_kids_(2)Tournament time is approaching for Junior Team Tennis, in case you hadn’t heard. On July 19, 20, and 21 at the Jerry Cline Recreation and Tennis Center, qualifying matches and district matches will be held. Sectionals will follow, Aug. 16-18, also at the Jerry Cline.  Nationals will take place in Cayce, S.C., on Oct. 19 and 20, and Oct. 26 and 27.
 For the first time, Farmington is taking part in junior team tennis. Paula Martin will be bringing to Albuquerque three different age-group teams to try to qualify for district competition.   Martin, 52, is in her second year as the City of Farmington’s tennis supervisor.
How does Junior Team Tennis work?
An age-group team typically has four boys and four girls.  The minimum is three boys and three girls.  They play singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
How many teams do you have in Farmington?
We have a 10-and under team, a 12-under team and an 18-and under group. I have about 23 or 24 kids for the different age groups.  I didn’t have enough kids to make a 14-and under team, but they can actually get into the 18-and-unders. You can move up in age group in JTT, but not down.
Are you a volunteer?
No, I’m a paid employee of the City of Farmington’s Parks and Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department.  We play at the Farmington Sports Complex, which has eight really good outdoor hard courts.  
Did you grow up in Farmington?
I lived in Florida starting when I was 10. I grew up in Orlando.  I played USTA tennis and my husband and I had two sons who were involved in USTA.  When I came to Farmington, the city did not have a strong USTA connection. I told the city, Let’s help the USTA to get a foothold here. In Junior Team Tennis, you have to be enrolled in the USTA to play. The USTA in Florida made tennis really popular, starting in the 1970s and 1980s. My plan is to see that happen in Farmington.  People have said there’s not enough tennis played in Farmington. I don’t agree. There are 10 or 12 elementary and middle schools. They can play tennis.  There are two high schools, both with very good tennis programs.  I truly believe that if we get the kids involved, the adults will follow.
Why isn’t there a strong USTA presence in Farmington?
I don’t know exactly.  No men or women here want to play in USTA leagues.  Leagues can show people what to do.  Leagues are great fun. I figure if I can sell the kids on USTA, I can sell older people.
What did you do last year?
We did a USTA Quick Start program.  I was able to get kids interested in Junior Team Tennis through that Quick Start.  I think the red, orange and green balls for kids are a wonderful way to get going in tennis.
When did you start with JTT in Farmington?
We began practices at the beginning of June. I did my 18-and-unders on Thursday and the 10-and-unders and 12-and-unders practiced on Friday mornings.
Do you travel to matches? 
We haven’t gone out of Farmington this year because it’s taken a while to build those teams.  But we’re going to try to qualify for district. I have only one team in each age group.  I am hoping next season to have more kids interested and have two teams for each age division.  
Do you handle all this by yourself?
I have two staff members who work for me.  The city is really good about trying to build new programs and do things for the tennis community here.  People here play tennis year-round. There are no indoor courts in Farmington, and it can be cold in the winter. But people are used to it. I have a group of elderly women, one of them is 84, and they come out every week in the winter. 
How did you wind up in Farmington?
My husband George Martin farmed back in Florida.  We had citrus crops and ran cattle.  He applied for a job with the Navajo Agriculture Products Industry, or NAPI, and got it.  He oversees the alfalfa crop for NAPI. Because I love tennis, I wanted to do be involved in it in Farmington and the tennis supervisor’s job was open. 
What makes Junior Team Tennis so popular across the country? 
It’s a great socialization method for young people. It’s about meeting kids from all over.  I wanted to keep things simple this year for our kids. We don’t have nicknames for our teams.  My supervisors wanted it that way. Kind of basic and not too competitive at first, not any of that We’re the champs and that kind of thing. We don’t have uniforms or shirts, either. I wanted to keep the costs down for parents.
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