Ray Benton, CEO
Ray Benton joined the TCCP in January of 2009 after having been involved with the club through one form or another since its inception. Ray is one of the most experienced executives in the tennis industry and he will serve as the CEO of both the Junior Tennis Champions Center and the TCCP. His career has included every facet of the business of tennis. Ray was a teaching professional for eight years, a college coach, and has served as the first National Executive Director of the National Junior Tennis League, which was founded by Arthur Ashe.
Ray’s entrepreneurial experience includes being the President of ProServ, a leading sports management firm, and founder and operator of the Nuveen Tour, a worldwide senior tennis circuit featuring Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.
Ajay Pant, General Manager
Brian Belsky, Director of Membership Services
Vesa Ponkka, Senior Director of Tennis
Vesa has over 30 years of playing and coaching experience at the highest levels of tennis: USTA, ITF, NCAA, Davis Cup, WTA, and ATP and he has PTR, USPTA, and USTA High Performance certification. His students have won numerous professional and national titles, achieved the #1 ITF Junior World Ranking, several #1 USTA National Rankings, and NCAA All American honors. Vesa was an original member of JTCC as a small start-up in 1999. Since then, he has been one of the instrumental driving forces in establishing JTCC among the best training centers in the world.
Vesa feels privileged to have served as a teacher and mentor for thousands of young players and believes that coaching education is critical to the growth of USA tennis. As his coaching philosophy, Vesa is a strong believer in Long Term Athletic Developmental Stages and uses Long Term Progressive Training Methods.
Michael Harper, Director of Junior Tennis
Michael’s journey with tennis began at the age of six. Growing up playing tennis in the greater Philadelphia area he eventually earned a scholarship to play Division 1 college tennis for Morgan State University. Not long after graduating with a degree in psychology, he began to get involved in giving back to the game. Michael is a USPTA certified professional and also holds PTR professional level certifications in both adult and junior development. He is also a proud member of the Cardio Tennis and TRX Cardio Tennis speakers’ teams. Since 2008, he has served in the industry as a High School tennis coach, director of tennis, USTA schools trainer and conference speaker. Most recently, Michael has served as a staff professional at Frog Hollow Racquet club and USTA Tennis Service
Representative in the Philadelphia area.
Passionate about Junior Development, Michael enjoys coaching all ages and ability levels and maintains a particular interest in the area of 10 and under tennis.
Merritt Johnson, Staff Pro
Merritt is a member of the USPTR with a Professional Rating. He has over 15 years teaching experience and 2 years experience playing USTA Professional Satellites. In 2004, Merritt held a ranking of #15 in the Men's 30’s and #9 in the Men's 35's in the Mid-Atlantic Section. In 2005, he was ranked #2 in the Mid-Atlantic Men’s 35’s singles and as high as #36 in the Nation. He also has more than 15 years of stringing experience. In addition to coaching and competing, Merritt also volunteers. He was one of the coaches with the Fila Arthur Ashe Children's Program/Academy with the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation (WTEF) for five years. In the past, Merritt has also been a practice partner for three women competing on the WTA tour and ranked in the top 300. He was also invited as one of the coaches at the Malibu Summer Tennis Camp at Pepperdine University for the summer of 2004 and 2005.
Chie Tougas, Quickstart Coordinator
Chie was born in Tokyo, Japan and grew up playing tennis in Chigasaki. Chie graduated with honors from Tokai University with a bachelors and masters degree in Communications. She later attended Syracuse University on scholarship and worked as a journalist for several major news corporations in Japan. Upon arriving in the U.S., Chie started training at TCCP in 2007 and joined the coaching team as a staff professional in 2009. She is a USPTA Certified Professional. Chie believes we are born with the natural ability to learn. Her mission is to inspire a passion for a lifelong love of learning and provide a good environment to maximize potential.
Wilfrance Lominy, Staff Professional
Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts – Willfrance started playing tennis at the age of six at Sportsmen’s Tennis Center. Like the Junior Tennis Champions Center, the STC is a non-for-profit that combines sport with community outreach and junior enrichment. Wilfrance graduated from Hampton University with a marketing degree. She was part of the first official Women’s Pirates team in 1995. Since the success of her inaugural season her participation has pave the way for female students athletes. Wilfrance joined The Tennis Center at College Park in the spring of 2005 as an Assistant Teaching Professional. As a proven instructor, Wilfrance works with both juniors and adults in clinics and private lessons. She helps players of all abilities understand and learn the fundamentals of the game and hone their skills. Wilfrance also assists with marketing for the club.
Wilfrance believes in building a complete player, which is someone who listens, takes constructive criticism, takes pride in their abilities and the game, and knows when to be mentally tough. Ultimately you’re only as good as your attitude and that will take you far on and off the court.Martina Navratilova said it best, “The mark of a great sportsman is not how good they are at their best, but how good they are at their worst.”
Gerald Watson, Staff Professional