Amanye Reynolds has been a member of the Saint Paul Urban Tennis (SPUT) community since she was five years old. The current SPUT Executive Director, Song Thao, was Reynolds first tennis coach while taking SPUT lessons at the Battle Creek tennis courts. After a great experience during her first summer of programming, she came back year after year, participating in numerous SPUT programs leading up to running the first ever Tennis and Leadership Camp for Middle School Girls. “SPUT has developed me as a leader by providing me with opportunities to take on new roles and expose myself to various pathways,” said Reynolds.
After taking summer lessons with Saint Paul Urban Tennis for multiple years, Reynolds played for Junior Team Tennis at the All-City Tournament. “I remember how encouraging my teammates were, whether we lost or won a point. I knew that no matter the outcome of the match, my team would be proud of us,” said Reynolds.
Once Reynolds was able to join the Harding High School team in seventh grade, she joined the SPUT Warrior Leadership Academy (WLA) program to continue growing as a tennis player on-the-court and learn through educational workshops off-the-court. She stayed in WLA throughout the rest of her high school career. In fall of 2019, Reynolds competed at the Minnesota State Tournament as the first ever Harding High School girls tennis player.
Reynolds not only took advantage of the SPUT opportunities to improve in tennis, but also became a coach and eventually directed a camp for the organization. In 2017 she started as an assistant coach and learned the ins and outs of what it takes to lead and run lessons. This learning experience led her to become a head coach in 2018 and 2019, and a site lead in 2020.
In 2019, Reynolds was awarded the Alison Mckee coach of the year award. “Being a SPUT coach in the summers has greatly improved my leadership skills. I manage young kids, I teach tennis while ensuring safety, and I make lesson plans clear for the assistant coaches,” said Reynolds.
After gaining years of experience in coaching, Reynolds was hired as a 2020 summer intern. She directed the Tennis and Leadership Camp for Middle School Girls, a pilot program created with the goal of offering a week-long experience for middle school girls from under-represented communities to connect them with each other and female coach mentors. The camp helped create a community of girls and provided encouragement and opportunities for them to advance in sport. The participants gained confidence in sharing their ideas and opinions, saw themselves represented in their female mentors, improved their tennis skills, met new people, and learned to practice leadership skills to establish a stronger sense of self.
Following the Tennis and Leadership Camp for Middle School Girls, participants felt twice as confident that they have a voice in the tennis community. On the first day of camp, Reynolds spoke to the girls during lunch about her experience as a leader. Following that conversation, a camp participant noted, “I learned that if I’m a leader, I don’t always have to lead. I can switch roles with other people.”
Reynolds served as the Youth Council Vice President from 2018 to 2019 and was the Youth Council President from 2019 to 2020. She was responsible for creating agendas for monthly Youth Council meetings, attending SPUT board meetings and SPUT events, and taking the lead on SPUT projects by assigning roles to other Youth Council members, coordinating days to meet, and making sure the assignments were finished on schedule. “The skills that I have improved from my role on the Youth Council are my people skills, my time management skills, my organizational skills, and my public speaking skills,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds also participated in the Saint Paul Urban Tennis Employment PLUS program where students are SPUT employees, “PLUS” are paid for additional time for college and career research, career mentoring, and college and worksite visits. With the help of the Employment PLUS program, Reynolds is attending Macalester College this fall where she will be playing tennis.
Reynolds attributes a lot of her growth on-the-court and off-the-court to Saint Paul Urban Tennis. “SPUT encourages kids to be good people before good athletes. Time and effort are invested into SPUT players to ensure they have the skills they will need in the future,” said Reynolds. It is her goal to continue growing as a tennis player and as a person. Reynolds is without a doubt a launched leader, but the sky’s the limit for this rocket.