Five Questions For… Danielle Vakutin and Arlo Novicoff

Jamila Perlas
Jamila Perlas

Danielle Vakutin and Arlo Novicoff are high school representatives to the Golden Gate Park Tennis Center Advisory Committee (TCAC). TCAC is a volunteer advisory group that reflects and represents the interests of the “regular users” of the Lisa & Douglas Goldman Tennis Center to the facility operator (Lifetime Activities) and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD).

1.What were some of your strategies for getting through the pandemic, in terms of remote school?

Danielle: Surprisingly, I really enjoyed online school. I did have a lot of extra work that I had to do because my classes were a lot shorter so after the school day and my clubs ended, I would give myself an hour break before starting my homework. I was able to refocus and be more efficient once I started doing my homework.

Arlo: Like for many other students, this year was really tough. I found getting my homework done immediately was a successful strategy. Later on in the day, I could enjoy spending time at home off my computer and outside. Chatting with friends online after school helped maintain some of the social aspects of school and make online school more bearable.

2.You are both on the Lowell tennis team – what were the last two seasons like for you?

Danielle: I was lucky because the girls' season was in the fall of 2019 so I was able to have a full season before the pandemic hit. Even though we’re a public school, we had matches against public and private schools and practiced six days a week, so I was able to get a lot of hitting in. The tennis season is super fun for me even if the matches get stressful because I get to play with my friends, which I don’t get to do as much when the season ends. This year, we had a short season due to the pandemic and it only lasted seven weeks. It was refreshing to see my team again after a year of online school, but we were only able to hit two days per week.

Arlo: After a successful freshman season, it was a disappointment when my sophomore season was canceled abruptly due to the COVID pandemic. During my junior year, I was lucky enough to have a shortened and condensed season where we were able to play for the last six weeks of school twice a week. It was a bit of a disappointment when our school practices, usually five or six days a week, were cut to only two but I am ultimately grateful that coaches and officials were able to organize a season in the midst of a pandemic. I look forward to a full season (hopefully) next year.

3.You are a member of the Tennis Center Advisory Committee (TCAC), which represents the interests of the “regular users” GTC to Lifetime and Rec & Park. Why did you want to serve on TCAC?

Danielle: I wanted to be part of the committee to bring more opportunities to high school students. From my experience, many high school players in the city didn’t have opportunities to join a team or a tennis club because not many exist in the city, hindering their ability to improve their game.  This was a problem for me too as I never joined a tennis team and that’s probably why I didn’t have fun playing. I see the Goldman Tennis Center as a great opportunity for younger players to get introduced to the game and keep it up and I hope to spread that message to my fellow high school players.

Arlo: The TCAC provided me an opportunity to interact and collaborate with adult professionals, which is a new and valuable experience. It is not often that teens get a chance to impact their community. The opportunity has allowed me to serve on a board and the skills I’ve learned so far will support me in future opportunities. I also wanted to be a part of the work the TCAC was committed to doing. It’s been great supporting my community while improving the state of tennis in San Francisco at the same time.

4.What role has tennis played in your life?

Danielle: My dad always wanted me to play tennis and he got me into the sport when I was six. I played consistently ever since then but from age nine until the start of high school I really disliked the sport and I only played because I didn’t want to lose my skills. When I joined my high school team, tennis became a lot more social for me and I met a lot of new people, which is why I started to enjoy it again.  Today, tennis is a way for me to get exercise while socializing and even though I don’t have any aspirations for a tennis career, I always want to improve my game!

Arlo: Tennis has played a large role in my life. It has helped me stay fit, connect with old friends and meet new ones through my school team. Tennis has exposed me to new opportunities including the TCAC and summer camp coaching opportunities. I started playing tennis in elementary school probably when I was seven or eight. I began playing with my father and at summer tennis camps around San Francisco.

5.What are you looking forward to this summer and next year?

Danielle: I’m most looking forward to resetting and getting ready for the fall semester. This school year was unusual and required a lot of extra work and I’m glad to finally have the summer off.  I’m doing an online chemistry program I’m interested in, which I’m most excited about.

Arlo: This summer I am looking forward to spending time with friends and family, working, volunteering, and preparing for the college application process. In August, it will be great to go back to Lowell and attend classes in person with my friends. Looking ahead to early 2022, I think that I will be happy to be done with college applications and also anxious to figure out where I will land for college.  I am also most definitely hoping for a lengthy and competitive tennis season in Spring 2022.