Anyone who has learned how to play tennis in Vermont has, at one point or another, come into contact with the smile (and Life Saver candy rewards) of Jake Agna.
Every year, the Youth Tennis Foundation of New England honors the legacy of Ned Weld, an accomplished player and advocate for helping kids through tennis, by presenting the Ned Weld Award to someone who exemplifies his spirit. This year’s award went to tennis professional Jake Agna.
A tennis player since age five and a teaching professional since he was 19, Agna has always been around children in his professional life.
In the late 1990s, he said, he decided to add under-served children to his junior tennis development program. “That’s when” Agna said, “I saw what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: to bring tennis to kids who weren’t going to get it otherwise.”
In 2000, Agna created Kids on the Ball, a tennis program that tries to bring tennis to as many kids as possible and keep them coming back for more. Today, the nonprofit program serves 1,200 youth tennis players in Vermont, and many more in Springfield, Mass., New Orleans and Havana, Cuba.