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New Ocean Pines racquet sports director excited about future

Ocean Pines Racquet Sports Director Terry Underkoffler is looking forward to the new structure of the amenity and programming and other plans for the coming summer.

Pines racquet players

Pickeballers are pictured playing on the courts at the Ocean Pines Racquet Center.
File photo

By Tara Fischer, Staff Writer 

Ocean Pines Racquet Sports Director Terry Underkoffler provided an update on the program’s new team structure, operational improvements and staffing expansion.

Underkoffler, who has coached racquet sports for 46 years and stepped into his current role in March 2024, noted that the association’s general manager, John Viola, restructured the amenity to create a team-oriented support system. 

The director assured that Membership Supervisor Ruth Ann Meyer would focus on bookkeeping and money intake, and Recreation and Parks Director Debbie Donahue would be assigned special events and tournaments. Deputy Public Works Director Nobie Violante also provides support to the racquet center. 

“With having those features, if I need to have something looked at, I have direct contact to public works and a direct contact to the administration building,” Underkoffler said. “Viola set up a team structure that works.” 

The longtime coach maintained that he enhanced the collaborative approach by organizing onsite communication with the tennis, platform tennis, and pickleball presidents. During monthly meetings, the racquet leader receives each sport’s needs, questions, and concerns and directs them to the appropriate department. 

“I cannot emphasize enough how much this system is working and is fostering a positive environment,” Underkoffler said. 

The racquet center has updated its check-in procedure. According to the director, players frequently forget to pay. Violante has set up temporary fencing around the site to amend the issue to block off all but the primary entrance. 

The check-in desk has also been relocated to the player’s lounge, which has a view of the whole site. Underkoffler claimed that these adjustments have allowed staff to catch a dozen individuals attempting to sneak into the courts. 

Residents can expect a second sign-in computer and court monitors whose job will patrol the site and ensure all members have registered and paid with the attendants as the summer season increases the center’s participation. 

Underkoffler hopes these improvements will minimize the influx of people playing for free. “It is to emphasize to the community that we mean business,” he said.

The racquet center prioritizes maintenance. Storm damage and everyday weather have forced the staff to maintain the court’s conditions. The tennis coach’s primary concern is that the facility is the best in the Worcester County. 

Additionally, the OPA Public Works Department gave Underkoffler half a dozen palm trees for beautification efforts. Flowers and perennial bushes were added to make the center “look a bit cheerier.” 

Program expansion is an ongoing initiative for the tennis and pickleball facility. 

“Being a coach for 46 years, I value training and certification,” Underkoffler said. “I want to have people out there who have gone through the process professionally.” 

New to the staff are pickleball instructor Linda Horst, former Naval Academy coach Bill Gilroy, the previous Forty West racquet sports director and Mid-Atlantic and state titleholder Rieck Foelber, and Araceli Popen, a decorated tennis coach who offers timeless tennis, children’s introductory tennis, and net generation tennis instruction.

“Our staff has expanded, and we’re excited about the programming we can offer,” Underkoffler said. 

This story appears in the May 23, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.