2011-06-30 / Sports

Krems lends a helping hand

Incoming Westlake senior runs VIP Tennis clinic for special needs students
By Eliav Appelbaum


Mitch Krems Mitch Krems Mitch Krems doesn’t care much for awards, rankings or trophies gaudier than seven-tiered wedding cakes.

Sure, they’re nice.

But Krems wanted to do more than enhance his own already distinguished tennis resume.

“I wanted to get involved,” he said. “I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.”

The incoming Westlake High senior recalled watching a group of special needs teenagers playing tennis at Triunfo Community Park.

But after a few weeks, they stopped showing up.

Krems wondered what happened. Who was going to teach them the game of tennis?

At that moment, the 17-yearold had an epiphany.

“The kids at the park were paying to play,” he said. “I wanted my clinic to be open and free and have an emphasis on a peer-topeer relationship.”

In December, Krems started VIP Tennis, a free clinic for teenagers with learning disabilities.


FEEL THE LOVE—Newbury Park High’s Geoffrey Frank, left, gets a fist bump from his tennis coach Mitch Krems, a senior-to-be at Westlake. Krems, 17, runs VIP Tennis, a clinic for high school students with learning disabilities. The Warrior began working with fellow students to help impact their lives. 
WENDY PIERRO/Acorn Newspapers FEEL THE LOVE—Newbury Park High’s Geoffrey Frank, left, gets a fist bump from his tennis coach Mitch Krems, a senior-to-be at Westlake. Krems, 17, runs VIP Tennis, a clinic for high school students with learning disabilities. The Warrior began working with fellow students to help impact their lives. WENDY PIERRO/Acorn Newspapers Once a week, he trains Geoffrey Frank, 17, an incoming senior at Newbury Park, and Monica Geske, 15, who attends Oak Park, at Pacific Tennis Club in Westlake.

The bond he has built with his students—who he considers his peers and friends—has been a moving experience.

Krems is doing a mitzvah, while Frank and Geske feel like they’re part of an exclusive club.

“ Geoff feels he has a kid who really cares,” said Elizabeth Frank, the Panther’s mother.

“Mitch does care.”

Weekday warriors

With Geske out of town on vacation, Krems and Frank worked out alone at Pacific Tennis Club on Monday.

Krems greeted his friend with a fist bump.

They chitchatted while stretching. After a lap around the court, Frank worked on his hand-eye coordination skills by hitting the ball straight up as many times as possible.

Krems emphasized the proper forehand grip before Frank worked on his ground strokes.

To mix things up, Krems incorporated a basketball drill. The teenagers shuffled sideways while passing the ball back and forth, building foot speed and coordination.

Frank then worked on volleys.

“Keep your head still, as if you have books on top of your head,” Krems told Frank.

Frank hammered shots across the net with force.

The entire time, Krems encouraged the NPHS student.

“Explode to the net!” Krems exclaimed.

“ Great compact swing— very nice.”

“ Put some more mustard on this.”

At the end of each drill, Krems and Frank exchanged a series of hand slaps and fist bumps.

Captain of the court

If he wasn’t so passionate about VIP Tennis, Krems would have dominated the Marmonte League last year.

As a sophomore, he went 55-5 overall and 40-2 in Marmonte singles action. Krems and Zach Drost won a league doubles championship while the Warriors secured a team title.

Krems is ranked No. 45 in the boys’ 18 division of the Southern California Tennis Association.

During a match, Krems attacks foes with the fury of King Ghidorah devouring Tokyo for Sunday brunch. He glides across the court with the grace of Baryshnikov, the fluidity of Gretzky and the moxie of Steve Nash.

“I love the mental aspect of the game,” Krems said. “You need to be mentally tough and possess all the strokes to compete at a high level.”

The Warrior also played point guard on the WHS basketball team for the past three years.

He is explosive off the dribble and has a cobra-quick release on his outside jump shot, with range from 3-point country.

He took last year off from high school tennis to focus on VIP Tennis and his academics, where the honors student has a cumulative 4.4 grade-point average.

Teaching peers

Krems has always enjoyed working with kids his own age.

In middle school, he tutored struggling students. He’s also a private tennis instructor for younger athletes.

Krems gets a thrill working with Frank and Geske.

“Geoff’s awesome. He’s a super kid,” the WHS student said. “There’s not a mean bone in his body. He follows directions perfectly. I love working with him.

“Monica has a great personality and a great smile. She told me tennis is her favorite sport.”

Frank, who also break dances, swims, sails and plays dodgeball, enjoys his time on the court.

“He’s nice to me,” Frank said of Krems. “He helps me with my form. I feel like I’m getting better.”

Krems, the son of Michael and Dikla, has a younger sister, Sivan, who is one of the top tennis players in the county.

He enjoys a good book—he’s reading “The Kite Runner”—and watching movies, especially documentaries.

Krems hopes VIP Tennis will inspire high school athletes in other sports— football, soccer, water polo and beyond—to start similar programs for kids who get lost in the shuffle.

“This has been a very neat experience altogether,” Krems said. “I feel I’m making a huge impact in their lives.”

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