Net Win: Meet the Racquet Pros

Meet the Racquet Pros

Tennis great Arthur Ashe once said, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.” 

On its tennis journey, The Cliffs is certainly “doing,” and has taken a major step by hiring full-time racquet sports directors for each of its regions. This commitment provides hundreds of players, across all properties, with year-round access to the best pros in the Carolinas. Clinics, tournaments, league play and inter-club showdowns are all part of the increased focus on tennis and pickleball. Meet the team on both sides of the net.


Aside from her clean footwork, the first thing you notice about Atkinson is her crisp accent. “I started playing when I was about five, or six, in South Africa,” she shares. “About my junior year of high school, I thought what a wonderful chance if I could play in college.” She wound up playing all four years at Delta State University in Mississippi. Post-grad life for the USTA 5.0 has included working at resorts around the world, including Guam and Austria. The 42-year-old is delighted to now live in Travelers Rest, with quick routes to The Cliffs Valley, Glassy, and Mountain Park. “Every day, we have clinics,” she says. “I think tennis is literally one of those things that no matter when you pick it up, it sticks with you, and you can enjoy the sport for life. I have people in their 90s and close to 100 who still play.”


After 30-plus years of coaching, mainly in the Midwest, Dunbar feels like he’s come home. “It’s full circle,” he says. “My first job was at Sea Pines, in Hilton Head. It’s wonderful to be back in South Carolina. The whole idea of what The Cliffs has to offer with the growth of racquet sports? They’re invested in the member experience. I think any time you want things to get better, you need continuous movement, rather than stagnation.” Not one to stand around, Dunbar learned the sport from his dad, who played in college. “When I was in seventh grade, I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he says. “I love what I do, being with people and being outdoors. I feel like I haven’t worked a day in my life.” Those people include the other pros at The Cliffs, where a fun-loving rivalry has developed. (The Lake Region just beat The Mountain Region in a recent tournament.) “Did Atkinson say that?” Dunbar asks with a laugh. “Yes, we did win, but I didn’t want to start something. She’s too nice.”


Looking for a high-cardio, low-impact adventure, with quick games and fun friends? Pickleball has become the fastest-growing sport in America, and The Cliffs is getting into the action with 17 courts across seven communities. Using parts of tennis, racquetball, and table tennis, the sport is actually 56 years old. Pickleball’s popularity is largely due to its quick learning curve, small courts, low net, and 15-minute games, where players frequently change partners. “It’s such a social game and an easy alternative to tennis,” shares Adri. “You can pick up a paddle, learn on the spot, and immediately be OK playing with anyone.” Ralph adds, “I’ve never seen anything take off like this. Other sports don’t allow room for flexibility, but pickleball can accommodate people on a social level and athletic level. I hope everyone will give it a try.”

This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

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