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San Diego Section 3-A Team Tennis Championship : Campers Help Vista Beat Mount Carmel for Title

Some kids go to sports camps for the summer. Others, like Sammy Stinnett and Thad Langford of Vista High School, live at camp year-round.

Stinnett and Langford are among six players from the Vista High School tennis team who are live-in members of the Woody Blocher Tennis Academy in Vista.

The six live together in an academy-owned four-bedroom house in Vista. They joined the Vista High team in January, after moving with Blocher’s academy from North Carolina.

“I like winning and I like to play tennis,” Stinnett, 17, said. “I get to travel and meet a lot of people, and the academy gives me something to do (other) than just sit around and be bored.”

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The six academy players were anything but bored Friday, when they helped Vista (23-0) to a 5-2 victory over Mount Carmel in the San Diego Section 3-A championship at Morley Field.

“It always helps a team to get top-quality tennis players,” Vista Coach Stormy Sexton said. “It brought up the overall level of play on the team because it was a challenge for the other players.

“Every one of my kids was faced with a new challenge, but they didn’t quit. They all said, ‘I’ll get better,’ and they did.”

Sexton said he believed that his team would have won the title without the academy players. “It just made it easier,” he said.

On some days, the members of the academy train after school with the Vista High team before heading over to the Vista Tennis Club, which is owned by Blocher. The players spend the first half of their second workout with Blocher on cross-court drills to sharpen their accuracy. The second half of the workout is spent on fitness drills, with the players chasing balls all over the court and occasionally stopping for push-ups or other exercises.

“I’m huge on fitness,” Blocher said. “I work the team’s tails off.

“I want kids who are interested in being tennis players, not the ones looking for a baby sitter.”

The $1,200 monthly fee that Blocher charges the live-in players pays for their meals, housing and tennis lessons. Blocher says the academy is a pre-college experience for the players.

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Langford, 16, who has lived at the academy since he was 12, said his teammates at Vista High treated him well after joining the team in January.

“They made us feel real comfortable, and that helps a lot,” he said. “At some other high schools, even when we weren’t playing, (they) looked at us different and made us feel uncomfortable.”


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