Thakur serves back to tennis community, fundraises more than $1,300 through camp


Photo courtesy Mihir Thakur

Coppell High School sophomore Mihir Thakur organized Rise Up, a tennis camp, over spring break with the help of fellow tennis athletes. Thakur raised $1,320 and split the funds between the CHS Tennis program and Coppell Education Foundation.

Anushree De, Advertising/Circulations Manager

Students amble their way to the Coppell High School Tennis Center. It is 8:45 a.m. and sophomore Mihir Thakur picks up a tennis ball from his JV tennis class, intending to serve it. The center has become Thakur’s second home. 

But when Thakur heard that funds raised by the CHS Tennis Booster Club were at a low, he was wary of what would happen. 

“We do two fundraisers a year,” Coppell coach Rich Foster said. “In the fall, we spent more money than we normally do, and our fundraiser [flower sales] was not up to what it normally is. When I came here in January, we were at a deficit. People who paid attention in our booster club meetings realized that we were dipping into our rainy day fund more than we normally would.”

The lack of funds, which enables the team to buy resources, poses long-term effects for the tennis program. Thakur realized a change needs to be made, and decided that he wanted to contribute towards making it. He was not sure where to start.

Then, the idea dawned on him.

“What if we hold a tennis camp?” Thakur asked. “It seemed like other varsity teams do the same thing, so we decided to incorporate that into the fundraiser while giving back to Coppell and the surrounding community.”

A month and hours of planning later, Thakur stands on the CHS Tennis Center as 22 elementary and middle school students pile in. For the next three days, March 13-15, Thakur and a team consisting of sophomore Rudra Chauhan, sophomore Raghav Mohan, freshman Prisha Thakur and freshman Shravanthika Satish Kumar offered an engaging and interactive curriculum. 

The first hour of the camp was spent evaluating the students based on their skill level to place them into their respective groups. However, the curriculum of each group maintained the same structure. The group started with warm-ups and then went to their respective courts to drill.

“If we saw mistakes we would correct them,” Thakur said. “The important thing was to keep motivating them. We wanted to make sure they felt encouraged. I would hype them up every single shot by saying, ‘oh, that’s a good shot.’ We’d say the good thing first and then add a suggestion.”

Thakur’s abundance of passion for the tennis camp is apparent in the lessons he learned from it. 

“I’m always on the receiving end,” Thakur jokes. “I’m generally being taught by my coaches or other players. It felt really satisfying seeing improvement in how our players hit balls in a span of hours and their growth from the first to the third day. It was humbling to learn how to teach.”

The camp’s effect on students and the community did not end at the camp. It was when camp staffers split the $1,320 between the tennis program and the Coppell Education Foundation that Thakur saw the fundraiser truly pay off.

“A lot of people do not do the current fundraisers, so it affects the number of tournaments our program and the varsity program can attend,” Thakur said. “If we go to more tournaments and get better balls, we can win more. We focused on those little things that make us better.”

While the funds raised from the camp is currently not earmarked for anything specific, Foster said that it should help pay for the current deficit. The team consists of 150 athletes which deviates from the standard 40 athletes at a Class 6A high school, according to Foster.

“Because Coppell is a big school, if kids don’t have an activity to do or a family to be a part of, they can get lost in the halls. We have always kept as many kids as we could out here.”

— Rich Foster

“With the number of kids we have, the stringing machine, our balls and everything we utilize out here, we exceed our budget every year,” Foster said. “Our budget is intended for a normal sized tennis team, so we have to do fundraising. Fundraiser money goes into the general fund with the boosters that we utilize to buy extra balls, extra strings, grips for rackets and charity events.”

Before the camp became the success that it was, however, Foster faced some uncertainty. 

“I’ll be honest,” Foster said. “I’m limited on hours since I’m retired, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to do this. How am I going to get people to open these courts? I also wasn’t sure if this was going to be successful, but I liked the fact that he wanted to try. I was amazed that it was as successful as it was.”

The camp shows Thakur’s character as a leader. Outside of the camp, Thakur serves as a diligent player. 

“Mihir definitely tries as hard as he can to be on the tennis ladder,” CHS assistant coach Joanna Hall said. “He wants to win individual matches and is eager to play in as many tournaments as he can. Organizing the camp during spring break was very admirable, but he is always out here trying to do the best he can. He continues to work hard to improve himself.”

Thakur intends to hold the camp next year, with slight improvements in mind. 

“We’re not planning to make this a one time thing,” Thakur said. “I want to curate this camp for each student next year. During the warm-ups, some exercises were meant for certain kids, because not all of them are ready to do ten push-ups. Making sure each kid does not feel out of place is something we want to focus on next year.”

Follow Anushree De (@anushree_night) and @SidekickSports on Twitter.