| By Brian Coleman
Photos courtesy of Caroline McGinley and Doug Yaffa

 

In this era of learning from home and virtual programming, the need to have an education that is right for you has never been more important. This is especially true for high-level junior tennis players who often have to balance their learning with a jam-packed training and tournament schedule, which is why many of them have chosen the Dwight Global Online School for their education.

Two of those players are sophomore Caroline McGinley and junior Doug Yaffa, both of whom have benefitted from the increased flexibility they have after joining the Dwight School.

McGinley hails from Essex Fells, N.J., and began playing tennis at the young age of five-years-old. She started playing in similar fashion to a lot of other players: her older sister was a player.

“She is a few years older than me, and when she started playing my parents sort of threw me into the mix just to get me out there and start doing something,” she recalls. “I ended up loving it more than anything, and so I continued to pursue it.” The more she played, the better she got and quickly rose up the junior ranks. Her first indication that she had special talent for the sport came when she started playing “Little Mo” tournaments.

“I started playing Little Mo when I was eight-years- old, and I was winning. I made it past the Regionals and into the National events,” said McGinley. “At that point, my family and I knew tennis was something I should continue doing. Plus, I enjoyed playing, so it was something I wanted to continue doing. My parents and I felt that if I was able to win big matches like those at such a young age that it gave me high hopes for the future.”

From Pre-K through ninth grade, she attended Kent Place School. As a freshman, she had the opportunity to play with her older sister Grace, who was a senior, for one season on the team. Caroline made her impact, reaching the state singles final and helping her team win the New Jersey Non-Public A state title.

“I had never really been a part of a tennis team like that, and it was so much fun,” she said. “I was able to play with my older sister and being able to be together for her last year of high school was amazing. I loved the team aspect and it got me really excited to transition into the college atmosphere in a couple of years.”

After that season, McGinley then made the decision to join the Dwight School ahead of her sophomore year. With the desire to put an emphasis on her training and tournament schedule it was an easy decision for her and her family:

“We chose Dwight because it gave me the same high- level academics and the flexibility I needed to continue pursuing my tennis.”

That flexibility has allowed McGinley to move down to Hilton Head, S.C. and train at the Smith Stearns Academy, which she started to do last August, and stays at the housing part of the academy.

“My parents still live in New Jersey, and I go home once in awhile to visit, but for the most part I live down here to train,” said McGinley, who also sees her parents when they visit her and when they travel to attend her tournaments. “It was difficult moving away from family and friends at first, but once I got situated here, I realized it was the best decision I ever made. I love it. I had to learn to do things on my own such as doing laundry and cooking some of my meals, which was a bit difficult at first, but after being here for nine months it’s become a routine.”

The focus on her training has been extremely beneficial for McGinley, and she was able to compete at the 2021 Easter Bowl earlier this year, where she reached the Round of 16 in the Girls 16s Singles division, the type of tournament she wasn’t able to play in the past due to school scheduling. She has made it her goal to earn a Gold Ball this summer at one of the national events.

McGinley prides herself on being an all-court player who plays aggressively, with top-flight speed that allows her to get to every ball on the court. She wants to continue to improve tactically and develop her all-around game to be prepared for any type of player she might face. She has a strong desire to consistently work on her game, and is at her happiest when she is out being active.

“I’m a very active person, I love to be outside,” she said. “I’m not the type of person that just wants to lie in bed all day and watch TV. I like to be up and doing things.”

She added:

“I’m looking to do well at the national events this summer. My doubles partner and I have said that this is our Gold Ball summer.”

The transition to attending the Dwight School has had a similar effect on Yaffa. The Harrison, N.Y. native enrolled at the school prior to his freshman year.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “Being able to get a high-quality private education while still being able to maintain my rigorous training and tournament schedule has been super beneficial for me.” Yaffa first began playing tennis thanks to his parents, both of whom were tennis players. Some of his earliest tennis memories are going over to the local courts and hitting with his father and grandfather.

“I immediately loved the sport,” said Yaffa. “What I love most about tennis is the competition. It allows me to learn new things about myself every time I step out on court, and pushes me to become better both on and off the court.”

A big-hitting right-hander, Yaffa is currently ranked seventh in New York in the Boys’ Class of 2022, according to TennisRecruiting.net, and has been enjoying the return to competitive play after a large portion of the junior circuit was put on hold last year.

“It feels amazing, after not traveling for over a year it feels great to be back doing what I love the most and going out there trying to compete and give it my all in these tournaments,” he said.

With an imposing 6’5’’ frame, Yaffa possesses an array of offensive weapons that make him a difficult opponent for anyone. His primary focus in recent months has been putting on muscle and filling out that frame.

“I think my size is my biggest weapon, and I have really been able to use it to my advantage and hit the ball a lot bigger than my opponent,” said Yaffa. “That’s something that I’ve been working really hard on and trying to incorporate into my matches as much as possible."

Yaffa is one year away from turning his attention to the collegiate tennis landscape, and should field plenty of offers from some of the county’s top tennis programs. First, he is focusing on the summer that lies in front of him and pushing his way into the later rounds at some the major national events.

“My short term goals include being able to make deep runs at the Super Nationals I’ll be competing in, as well as continuing to physically build my frame,” said Yaffa. “Long term, I would love to keep on developing my game throughout college, trying to reach my full potential and bring my best for the four years that I am at college, and doing whatever I can to make my team the best it can be.”

Both McGinley and Yaffa have bright futures in front of them, both on the court and in the classroom. The two have an unwavering dedication to tennis which has been supplemented by the flexibility provided to them by Dwight Global Online School.

 

Brian Coleman

 Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com