Sports

'Everyone should get a chance to play.' Clovis teen beating 'country club stereotype'

Clovis North tennis player donating rackets to kids in need

Jordan Pickett wants everyone to have a chance to experience the joy of tennis, so she has been collecting tennis rackets, restringing them and putting new overgrips on them for kids at the Inspiration Park Boys & Girls Club.
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Jordan Pickett wants everyone to have a chance to experience the joy of tennis, so she has been collecting tennis rackets, restringing them and putting new overgrips on them for kids at the Inspiration Park Boys & Girls Club.

Jordan Pickett, 17, of Clovis loves tennis, but not how it's relatively expensive to play.

"Tennis has a country club stereotype," Jordan said. "A lot of people think that if you aren't a member at a country club that you can't play tennis because you don't have access to the courts or the facilities or anything."

There's also the cost of equipment.

"Tennis rackets are not just a basketball that are $10 and you use it for years and years and years. As you grow with the sport, you have to get new rackets and they're pretty expensive."

Jordan doesn't like that. So the teenager is changing things, one racket at a time. She collected 60 – along with racket strings and grips – for children whose families can't afford them through a campaign she started, "Raise a Racquet."

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Clovis North tennis player Jordan Pickett restrings a tennis racket at her friend and fellow tennis team member Billy Schulz's house on Friday, July 6, 2018. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

It's a labor of love, not a required school or club project.

She's restringing 16 of the rackets – no small task. Restringing one takes 45 minutes to an hour, she said. Jordan learned how on Friday from friend and fellow Clovis North varsity tennis player Billy Schulz.

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Clovis North tennis player Billy Schulz, left, shows fellow tennis team member and friend Jordan Pickett how to restring a tennis racket at his house on Friday, July 6, 2018. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Many of the rackets will be given to Inspiration Park Boys & Girls Club in west Fresno next week, along with other youth groups.

Jordan hopes the donations will give more kids an opportunity to play tennis.

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Tennis rackets are laid out to be restrung as a project for kids in need by Clovis North student Jordan Pickett at her friend and fellow tennis team member Billy Schulz's house on Friday, July 6, 2018. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

"I love the sport," she said. "I can't get enough of it. I spend hours every day out there playing tennis and I think every kid should have an outlet, and tennis is a great one."

It's an outlet that can last a lifetime.

"You can go out to any tennis courts and you'll see people that are in their 80s playing tennis, and it's just great," she said. "I imagine myself out there when I'm that old playing with my friends."

Jordan recently came up with "Raise a Racquet" after a meeting with her private college adviser, Laura Mahoney, executive director of College Planning and Tutorial Center, who suggested she do something philanthropic outside of school to build her resume.

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Clovis North tennis player Billy Schulz shows fellow tennis team member and friend Jordan Pickett how to restring a tennis racket at his house on Friday, July 6, 2018. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

"One time mentioning it, that was all it took," Mahoney said, "and to me that's more important than GPAs. Just because you're book smart doesn't mean you're a leader. She's very well-rounded."

Jordan also volunteers as a math tutor and helps teach tennis clinics. Clovis North tennis coach Bryan Juinio calls her mature and selfless.

"She's quiet. If she has something to say, she'll say it. She's real sweet but she's a go-getter for sure. It's just hard to describe," Juinio said. "You talk to her and think she just goes with the flow, but she takes the initiative and gets things done."

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Clovis North tennis player Jordan Pickett puts a new grip on a tennis racket at her friend and fellow tennis team member Billy Schulz's house on Friday, July 6, 2018. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Her mom, Julie Pickett, said Jordan has incredible character and "sense of being – who she is, what she wants to be, where she wants to go."

"We're very proud of the person that Jordan is because she's just a really good person with a great heart," she said. "She's got an internal drive and motivation."

The rackets and equipment were collected via donation boxes at Clovis North and area country clubs, along with a donation from Tennis Warehouse. Jordan isn't collecting more rackets at this time, but hopes a teammate will take over her project in the future and keep it going.

Mahoney wants people to know that the central San Joaquin Valley has many incredible students.

"They work really hard for the betterment of the community, and I think we need to have them shine a little more often," Mahoney said. "Look for the good, because there's a lot of it."

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge
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