New owners, ideas reinvigorate Racquet Club of Washington

Published 8:07 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Doug and Kathy Barthel have big plans for the Racquet Club of Washington.

Since their purchase of the club in September 2016, they have made many changes and have more in mind for the future.

“One of our main goals is to increase the number of kids playing in this area,” said Doug Barthel, a teaching professional of 32 years. “Priority one is to get more kids out.”

Barthel realized that the lack of youth tennis participation is a problem when he noticed that not a single junior player in Beaufort County currently has a state ranking.

Earning a state ranking is not hard to do, said Barthel. “You win one tournament match and you get a ranking. Out of the 1,500 kids listed, zero Beaufort County kids were ranked.”

The Barthels have a number of ideas to increase youth participation. They currently offer junior clinics year-round, and the focus is on fun.

“We are trying to make it as fun as possible as they’re learning,” he said. “We’re trying to keep that retention rate very high.”

Attracting youth is so important, according to Barthel, because “more adults join in when their kids are playing rather than vice versa.”

Beyond teaching clinics, the Barthels plan to host junior tournaments as well as offer clinics to students during school. They hope to partner with schools to teach free lessons during P.E. classes to introduce a larger group of kids to the game.

“Not everybody is going to love it right off the bat, but if they’re not exposed to it, they’ll never know,” Barthel said.

He further hopes to establish a community tennis association, which would provide funds for kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the costs of playing tennis.

“We don’t want to turn away a kid just because they might not have the extra money to pay for kids’ opportunities,” he said.

Barthel said he’s interested in hosting a United States Tennis Association Futures Tournament, which he describes as the minor leagues of tennis.

“It’s an awesome event,” he said. “It’s world-class tennis right here in the backyard.”

His wife, Kathy Barthel, said the event would help local businesses. Play typically lasts for two weeks, and during that timeframe, players will contribute to the local economy by visiting restaurants and staying in hotels, she said. Often players will stay with host families who get to know them.

“It’s a great community-building event,” said Doug Barthel, who said he hopes to hold such a tournament in the next two to three years.

The Racquet Club is not focusing strictly on young tennis players, however. Barthel said they have a variety of adult programming. He teaches a high-intensity clinic he calls “cardio tennis” on Thursdays and Saturdays and offers men’s and women’s quads on Tuesdays. Barthel describes quads as a more relaxed, recreational setting for doubles.

The Barthels have leased tennis clubs in various locations, such as Texas, Florida and Georgia, but moved to Washington when they saw the Racquet Club available for purchase online.

Although they had never been to Washington before they came to look at the facilities for the first time, they said they ended up being happy with the location.

“We have run into some of the nicest people,” Doug Barthel said. “We love being near the water, and we love the area.”