Tennis Tips Volume VII: Diversification


This volume of tennis tips seems like a fairly obvious one but I think it is worth stating anyway.

One of the most important aspects of general tennis strategy (and I’d argue life strategy) is to be unique. Another way to look at it is to diversify your own tennis portfolio with different types of shots and effects on the ball when you hit it.

Too many players play with a generic style of hitting the ball one type of way on the forehand and backhand side while simply staying on the baseline. The upside of this approach to the game is that it helps breed consistency…the downside is that it does the same for your opponent and allows them to get in rhythm while focusing their thoughts more easily.

When you diversify between top-spin, slice, flat, short, deep and angled in a somewhat asymmetric manner you force your opponent to guess and adjust based on YOUR control of the rally. Not only does your opponent have to work more on their footwork to adjust to the effect you put on the ball, but it also forces them to hit shots they do not want to hit and eventually set you up for point winning shots.

portfolio-diversification

Of course, it is not easy for every player to do this in a match (practice hitting shots outside of your initial comfort zone when not playing a match to enhance this in a match)…but I believe the upside of this vastly outweighs the downside. For instance..if you are up 30-love or 40-love and hit shots that keep your opponent off balance but maybe hit an unforced error…it could be viewed as a long-term gain because even though you lost the point, it was YOU losing the point and not your opponent WINNING the point. Very little confidence will have been gained by your opponent and it still prevents them from getting some rhythm in their game.

When you do not diversify your shots, you are essentially just rallying with the opponent and it is likely that your opponent has spent hours upon hours of “just rallying” in practice sessions with friends or with a coach. That is inherently playing into their hands and either leveling the playing field or outright giving them an advantage. Keep them off balance and just like an investment strategy, diversify your portfolio and play winning tennis.

Tennis Tips Volume VI: Good Coaching


After years of playing and coaching tennis, I think I have learned what makes a good coach.

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We here at the Newington Tennis Center have been driven to provide an enjoyable yet comfortable environment for everyone that comes through the door. Each coach that works for the NTC has tried their hardest to meet that standard and then specify with each lesson what needs to be done to make the customer happy. At times, its even odd for me to refer to people as customers. Our customers are our friends.

Anyway, for this volume of Tennis Tips, I am going to simply put in bullet form what I think makes a good coach so everyone that reads this can truly see in our coaches what they work so hard to do.

  • Customization and Improvisation: I think being able to free flow a lesson to best mold a game-plan that suits the needs of the player is one of the most important and overlooked skill a coach can have. In most cases, a player that comes in has a stroke or two that they are not comfortable with and want to work on those strokes specifically to start. Repetition of drills can be useful in improvement but it does not promote active thinking while playing…hence the importance of a coach to be able to improvise on the fly.
    • I’ll give a specific example of what I would do: Player A says they need help on their forehand. I say ok and do a bunch of stand still forehands from the baseline to see the form while constantly walking through both errors and good shots (for Player A’s skill level). Then I make the player move around and say that there will not be a standard location in which I feed the players from the hopper. During this period I do not correct as much and simply watch how and when they make forehand errors and once the hopper is over I talk to the player about what I had seen during the beginning part of the lesson and either continue with more forehand drills or let the player decide what they want to work on next.
  • Communication: This leads me into Communication. It is probably the most important part of coaching. Actually, it is the most important part of coaching. Without proper verbal and visual communication, any gains in form in the short term is likely to be eventually lost. In my experience, it could lead to diminishing returns in all aspects of the game because, well, people have other lives. The tennis coach revolves their whole professional career around their knowledge of the game so oftentimes there is an immense knowledge gap that is hard to bridge properly to the player. This is why some all time greats in any sport simply cannot be good coaches.
    • 9 times out of 10 a tennis coach will also have years and years of playing experience and going back to square one in order to properly teach someone while also coaching high level players can be difficult. This is why many tennis coaches can only coach well in a certain niche lane of age/playing level. Well at the Newington Tennis Center, we try and segment the players as such so that each player has the best fit possible as they try and improve their games. With that said, we are lucky because each of our coaches can coach each playing level while maintain a fun atmosphere.
    • The only true way this can be done is through constant personal communication. This is especially important in group lessons when it is hard or impossible to give everyone the amount of time they truly need to improve. A good coach can address the needs of the individual through both individual and group communication. Doing this the right way can help players lead by their own example which breeds confidence…and no one can play an individual sport like tennis without confidence.
  • Technical Know-How and Knowing One’s Lane: Improvisational and communicative skills can only go so far without the actual technical know-how to actually correct errors. A good coach can both identify AND correct errors. Some coaches are only good at one of the two (usually the former not the latter). The reason why I listed it 3rd is because although one’s playing experience is often the core of the technical know-how, it is quite possible for someone to be a good or great coach without specifically being a tennis guru.
    • Every coach can attest to coaching a player or meeting a parent that knows close to as much or more than you about the sport but simply are unable to be a coach. On the flip side, I’ve also met many coaches that get great results without being an aforementioned guru simply because they are well-rounded, can identify a flaw in someone’s game and then fix it. A good coach doesn’t need to be able to hit a great inside-out cross-court forehand to be able to teach it and, in many cases, a coach doesn’t have to really know the intricacies on how to set up and execute that shot to a be good coach. The difference is that a good coach goes into lessons knowing this and doesn’t try and coach something they don’t really know about. Trust me, that will eventually drive the unfortunate next coach in the line insane because there are more errors to correct. *Sighs*
    • This is why it is good that USTA and PTR give out coaching certificates in tiers. It helps specify the strengths of a coach. I personally think that each coach should introduce themselves to potential clients by explaining to them what they are really good at it. This leads to a better professional relationship that will likely continue for months if not years.
    • Me personally, I often tell people that I do not have a coaching certification because I am not a big fan of simply “teaching by the book”. I, of course, have insurance and passed background checks to coach and that is important, but getting boxed in a corner by curriculum decided by other nameless coaches is not my style. A good coach brings their own flair and style to the game and the players they coach can sense it which eventually leads to a positive contagious atmosphere for everyone involved. I’ve coached both ways and get much better results when I have full creative control over my court. A good head pro can see this in a coach and grants it to him or her. A bad coach doesn’t care and goes vanilla.
    • Results are most important and we get them. Getting a certificate is great but getting a player from the 50’s to the top 10 in USTA in about a year makes me feel fine about my coaching ability and makes others feel fine about it too. I’ll eventually get a certification but I am simply not a good test taker and would probably feel out of my element doing test drills and hitting drills (injured shoulder and wrist currently) to random people with me being evaluated and not the people I am coaching. Chances are my certification level would be in-congruent to my actual technical know how and intangibles as a coach. I’ll keep you updated on that.
  • Giving Credit To The Player: I could go on forever with this issue of Tennis Tips but I’ll end it off right here on this point. This is not something to overlook from a coach’s perspective. Tennis is an individual game and without the player knowing that they are the primary reason for their own success, there will be a problem when they go off and play on their own.
    • If the coach doesn’t properly and consistently communicate that throughout the span of time they spend with a player..well..it is equal to leaving the training wheels on the player. That goes for any and every skill level. Ever wonder why professional players continuously cycle coaches? Chances are those are the same players that have identified a specific flaw in their game through tough losses.
    • A prime example of this is Andy Murray with Ivan Lendl and Amelie Mauresmo. From an outsider’s perspective, Andy needed aggression and competitive fire in his game when he hired Lendl (because he couldn’t clear the hurdles of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic) and there was an immediate positive result in that aspect of his game. Then, it appeared as if he was stressed and lost the love for the game so he switched (in my estimation) to Mauresmo. After the switch, he lost a bit of the fire he had under Lendl but gained some pleasure out of the sport.
      • The reason I think this applies under this section is because sometimes a coach can be so good that the player begins to feel like they cannot achieve a specific goal without them. That is great and can work out but things always change in time and a player cannot realistically think that a specific coach will always be there for them. Coaches have lives too people! The good coach will give credit to the player for learning and improving and that gives them the confidence that they can do it on their own in a match. It could be the difference between a 6-4 6-4 loss and a 6-4 6-4 win.

 

Written by: @Coach_Marshal

The 2015 US Open is over…now it’s time to get excited about your own play!


Pennetta beat her but who cares?

Djokovic’s dominance, Federer’s rejuvenation and quest for another slam, the ongoing struggle of Nadal, and last, but certainly not least, the journey of Serena through tournament draw after tournament draw have all been storylines that garnered quite a bit of attention and rounded up 2015 into a great year for tennis. Altogether, it has helped the sport gain traction in the mainstream media more than it had in the recent past…and hopefully it will lead to more adults choosing tennis to learn and play, signing up their kids to learn and play, or to simply having some of their racquets dusted off in a triumphant return to the court.

I would also wager that it has additionally invigorated those of you who were already interested in the pro tour and playing on a semi-regular basis. I know that is the case for me and many people I speak to anyway.

Any time a Grand Slam comes and goes, I get more and more interested in getting out onto the court myself. The spirit of competition starts to flood back into my system and the intricate details and nuances of a high level match sparks my tennis intellect into hyper-drive. (It’s not until I suffer through a double fault or the absence of the ability to call for the Chase review that I then come back to reality)

Regardless of how good of a player you are, there are things you can assuredly pick up from watching the best of the best go at it. For instance…according to Roberta Vinci, the complex strategy of ‘running and getting the ball in’ was the decisive factor in beating one of the greatest players of all time. If that isn’t inspiring to you and your tennis game then I don’t know what is. Although…on second thought…John Isner has been a pro for 8 years and still can’t execute the former of the two part Vinci plan, so who knows?

All jokes aside, it is truly inspiring to see the great players playing great, the young guns making names for themselves and the seasoned veterans making a push for glory. One of the most beautiful aspects of the sport of tennis is that there is always something someone can relate to just by watching. Whether it is a coach, a player, a swing, a strategy or even just fashion…there is always something.

So when you walk back through the doors of the Newington Tennis Center, walk back in with the exuberance of a kid on their first day of school…or it’s equivalent, the exuberance of an unseeded veteran doubles player that just knocked off one of the greatest competitors in athletic history. Whether it was a smile or a crisply struck slice backhand that has you inspired, keep that inspiration in mind as you do your best and enjoy the wonderful sport that we, in one way or another, hold so dear to us.

Updates from the 2014 Sony Open in Miami (Sunday-Tuesday)


Here are results from Sunday, Monday and Tuesday as well as what is slated for today:

Sunday

Women

  • Perhaps the most interesting match result was Caroline Wozniacki defeating Sloane Stephens in the manner that she did. 6-1;6-0. Shocking really. I was expecting a tough battle resulting in a close Sloane victory, but that was far from the case. She was in her home territory but dropped to 6-4 on the season.
  • 2,3, and 10 seeds Na, Radwanska and Cibulkova all advanced in straight sets.
  • 29th seeded Venus Williams also won, albeit barely, in her match against the Australian Casey Dellacqua. The final score was 6-4;5-7;6-4. It was good to see Venus pull out the victory, but the close result shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise. Though she is a relatively unheralded player, Dellacqua took Venus to a second set tie-break in the 2010 Australian Open, when Venus was a far better player than she is now.

Men

  • Jo-Willy ended up prevailing over Marcos Baghdatis in a wild 3 set match. He ended up winning 4-6; 7-6(8-6); 7-5. Definitely a gritty victory for Tsonga against a crafty veteran player.
  • Ferrer, Murray and Federer all advanced easily in straights.
  • “Little Fed”, Grigor Dimitrov lost 6-7, 5-7 to Kei Nishikori. Obviously a tough match. I plan on doing a write-up on Dimitrov in the future. I think it could be argued that he has the most potential of any young player on tour.

Monday

Women

  • Na, Radwanska, Cibulkova and Wozniacki all advanced again. Cibulkova defeated Venus in 3 sets, with Venus winning the second set 7-5 after losing 6-1 in the first. She was vanquished 6-3 in the third.
  • Sharapova, Kvitova and Kerber all won in three set matches.
  • Sharapova lost the first set but won the next two against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.
  • Kvitova beat the famous Ana Ivanovic with a double bagel in sets 2 and 3 despite losing the first set 6-3. Needless to say, that is a bit of a weird score.
  • Kerber beat Makarova in an up and down match 6-4;1-6; 6-3.
  • Serena Williams won in an easy fashion, beating fellow American Coco Vandeweghe 6-3;6-1. Serena looked very strong.

Men

  • 1st seeded Nadal and 3rd seeded Wawrinka won their matches in straights. While Nadal only lost one game against the Uzbeki Istomin, Wawrinka won a tight one 7-5;6-4.
  • The day went by “the chalk” as all players with the higher seed earned passage to the next round. The list included: Berdych, Becker, Isner, Raonic, Fognini and Dolgopolov. Dolgopolov had the toughest match, winning 7-5 in a third set tiebreak.

Tuesday

Women

  • Maria Sharapova defeated Petra Kvitova 7-5; 6-1 and Serena Williams beat Kerber 6-2; 6-2. Serena has been playing some of her best tennis in recent history this tournament.

Men

This was, perhaps, one of the best days of tennis in a long time. Marquee match-ups across the board. I wish I could’ve attended.

  • The Ukrainian Dolgopolov upset Stan Wawrinka in three sets, winning the third 6-1. As mentioned in an article earlier, it seems as if Dolgopolov is playing some of his most motivated tennis ever and is successfully riding the wave of emotion and keeping the momentum going. His decisive victory over Stan definitely looks good on his resume.
  • Milos Raonic beat Benjamin Becker 6-3; 6-4. Although Raonic was seeded 12th to Becker’s 8th, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was an upset.
  • Tomas Berdych defeated John Isner 6-3; 7-5. More of the same for Isner. He has a tough time against a player with a consistent serve and a good return game, particularly veterans who don’t get down on themselves if they don’t have success early against him.
  • Kei Nishikori eliminated David Ferrer in one of the closest matches possible. He won 7-6 (9-7); 3-6; 7-6 (11-9). Wow. I feel a bit bad for Ferrer, who actually won more game than Nishikori and lost in tight tiebreaks..but I am also impressed with Nishikori to earn a victory in this manner against one of the toughest players on tour.
  • Nadal, Federer and Djokovic all won in straight sets. Nadal and Federer both had an easy time Fognini and Gasquet, but Djokovic beat Tommy Robredo in a fairly well contested 6-3; 7-5 victory.
  • Maybe the biggest surprise outside of the Dolgopolov upset was the way Murray dispatched Tsonga. 6-4; 6-1. The Frenchman played terribly in the second set.

Wednesday Matches

  • Radwanska and Cibulkova are currently battling it out early in the third set. Radwanska won the first set 6-3 and lost the second 7-5.
  • Li Na vs. Wozniacki is also on the docket. I’d be shocked if Na lost, but, on the other hand, Wozniacki has been playing very well in Miami.
  • Andy Murray is to face Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori is going up against Roger Federer. I’d expect Djokovic and Federer to advance obviously…but for some reason, if I had to pick an upset, I’d take Nishikori instead of Murray to win. Nishikori is coming off of two very tough matches, but is only 24 and has the legs to bounce back quick. He is having a great year, with one tournament victory and a sparkling overall record. One of the few blemishes is a loss to Nadal at the Australian, but it took everything it could out of Nadal. The final score of that match was 7-6 (7-3); 7-5; 6-5 (ret).

Sony Open Tournament in Miami 2014


Although this tournament is a bit less heralded than Indian Wells, it is yet and still another big one with prize money totaling near $5,000,000 while being a part of the Masters Series.

Pretty much all of the top guys are playing in the tournament. Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Ferrer, Berdych, Isner and Wawrinka (as well as others).

In the “others” category, Jo Willy Tsonga is battling on the court with Marcos Baghdatis. Baghdatis won the first set 6-4. The second went to a tiebreaker in which Tsonga double faulted at 6-5 and set point, but pulled it out 8-6. Tsonga is 4-0 career against Marcos, so the loss would be disappointing, especially with Marcos being ranked in the mid 100’s.

Robredo vs Benneteau is also slated to play soon. They are currently in warm-ups. Should be a nice, quality match to watch. Benneteau has momentum, but it is always entertaining to watch a Spaniard and Frenchmen to go at it on the tennis court.

Federer, Ferrer and Murray are also scheduled to play today (Sunday).

Yesterday, Nadal beat Hewitt, Raonic beat Sock (4 and 6), Wawrinka won in 3 tough sets, Isner beat Donald Young after losing a first set tiebreak to him and Dolgopolov advanced by beating the ancient Jarkko Nieminen. Jarkko is 32 but it seems like he has been around forever. Monfils and Cilic were eliminated.

On the women’s side, Serena survived a tough match against Caroline Garcia of France (6-4;4-6;6-4). Sam Stosur lost (7-5;5-7;5-7) to 22 year old American Coco Vendeweghe. Sharapova and Ivanovic advanced while Sabine Lisicki had to default.

I’ll update the results later tonight or tomorrow.

Good Luck To All The High School Teams


Beginning in October, we have had a variety of special group lessons set up for high school tennis programs, including Newington High School, Plainville High School, Wethersfield High School, Watkinson High School, Southington High School and Conard High School.

We sincerely appreciate the effort the players have put forth throughout the course of the lessons and each of the instructors involved have taken much pleasure in seeing such improvement in all facets of the game in such a short period of time.

We would like to wish all of those who came in good luck in the upcoming season.There was a very high level of skill displayed and we hope that it will continue and translate into victories during the season. We have confidence that there were conference tournament champions and potentially a state tournament champion at our club during these group lessons. We’re rooting for you.

Special mention goes out to the Plainville Boys Team, which will be participating in tennis for the first time since 2003. You guys are making history and have the chance to begin a legacy at your school. No matter what happens, stick with it and hang in there.

Tennis Tip Volume I: Visualization


Every now then, the Tennis Center will put up some tennis tips that could be able to help your mental and physical performance on the courts. Consider this the first installment.

Visualization

Mark McGwire leads the major leagues in home runs, and in blank stares. Visualization, he calls it. Before each at-bat McGwire will imagine the pitcher throwing the baseball. He will imagine how the pitch will move, maybe a fastball or a curveball, and he will imagine smashing the ball with his Paul Bunyan swing.

New York Times, 1998

  • It is more than just a buzz word spoken by motivational speakers across the globe. If done correctly, visualization can help you in pre-match prep as well as before or during any set, game, or point in a match (depending on how much you decide to employ this).
  • Envisioning yourself doing something on the court, while in deep focus for a sustained amount of time before you step foot on the court, helps you to stay calm and feel confident as well as assist the physical aspect of the sport by performing a bit of a reverse direction in the muscle memory phenomenon and help you execute the strategies, tactics and shots that you previously envisioned executing in specific situations.
  • It is also important to keep in mind that you are not playing against yourself, so visualizing some of your opponent’s play beforehand to the degree that you know them as a player will truly make this endeavor successful.
  • Lastly, the key to making this all work is to do this with a clear, stable, mind and emotional state. I’m sure most everybody goes into a match with a base strategy, optimistically seeing every game as a potential a hold of serve or a break, and perhaps every point with some sort of pre-determined general strategy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…but I can guarantee you that it is more likely to contribute positively to your play if it is well thought out in a peaceful mental state. Going into a point upset about previous happenings and saying to yourself, “I’m going to go for a huge winner down the line off the serve” may work, but thinking the same thing while remaining calm is much more likely to be fruitful because you are likely to not rush the return when the serve comes around. This means you will have better footwork, better technique and are more likely to connect on the sweet spot rather than potentially just reaching for the ball and swinging for the fences out of frustration.
  • Of course, it is easier said than done, but I have had some success over time through the use of visualization, and have also seen a good deal of success of others through visualization. It also translates to many (if not all) sports, and perhaps other facets of your life as well.

Finals Results of Indian Wells 2014: An Italian Surprise and a Predictably Tight Djokovic Victory


One of the premier tennis tournaments of the year finished with some superb play, at least by 3 of the final 4.

Pennetta Beats Radwanska

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(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

On the Women’s side of things, the 20th seeded Flavia Pennetta upended 2nd seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in a surprisingly easy 6-2;6-1 victory.

The 32 year old had a simply magnificent tournament, beating Sloan Stephens, Li Na and Radwanska in consecutive matches to claim her tenth career title and first of the new year. “At this tournament last year, I was thinking I could not play anymore,” Pennetta said. “After so many years working hard this is the best. Didn’t expect it the beginning of the week being in the final, and here I am holding the trophy.”

Radwanska was battling injuries but was simply outplayed. The injuries aren’t a valid excuse for her loss, though it is fair to say it would have probably been a bit more competitive had she had been completely healthy. In any event, Radwanska failed to earn her 14th career title.

Djokovic vs. Federer

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(Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)

On the Men’s side, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer battled in yet another tight and extremely polished match.

As written in the preview article, all signs seemed to indicate a tough fight between the two was on the way, and that it indeed was what happened. Like many of their recent matches, there was a split set victory (with Roger winning the first set 6-3), as well as a tiebreak third set which culminated in a 7-3 finish in favor of Novak.

In classic Djokovic fashion, he rebounded from early slip-ups to rally and earn himself his third title at Indian Wells. Again, as was mentioned earlier on the site, he cannot really be counted out of a match until he loses the last point. He proved that analysis to be absolutely true. No matter how the early parts of the match goes, nine out of ten times he will recover and drastically improve his game before the end of the match.

His victory over Federer brought him one more victory away from tying up the historical record between the two by bringing his victory total to 16 compared to Fed’s 17.

Indian Wells Results and the Upcoming Matches


A great  set of matches await tennis fans

Thursday and Friday Results

  • Alexandr Dolgopolov kept his momentum rolling by earning a huge victory over Milos Raonic by winning 6-3;6-4. His run at Indian Wells has been quite impressive, and though it may still be a longshot, I wouldn’t put it past him to win the whole thing.
  • Roger Federer also kept his tournament hopes alive by beating Kevin Anderson. Anderson also had some good momentum and put up a good fight in the first set losing 7-5, but he went down in the second 6-1.
  • On Friday, Djokovic defeated Benneteau easily, 6-1;6-3.
  • Isner, in his regular fashion, barely squeaked by in two break sets against Gulbis.

Upcoming Matches

  • Novak Djokovic is set to face John Isner in the first semifinals match. Isner defeated Novak in the semis in 2012 at Indian Wells. I wouldn’t bet that history will repeat itself, but at least the precedent has been set for a potential Isner victory.
  • In the other semifinal, Federer is going up against Dolgopolov. Should be a quite interesting matchup, particularly with both playing so well at the moment. If Alexandr is to win, he is going to need all he has in his repertoire to win. Federer could win in straights easily, while if Dolgopolov is to win, it will, in all likelihood, take three sets or at least a tiebreak.

Welcome To The Newington Tennis Center!


**News as of 9/27/14**: We are set up at the Connecticut Convention Center today and tomorrow for the NBC Connecticut Health Festival. We expect to see thousands of people throughout the two days during the festival and are excited to introduce some of them to the game of tennis and to our wonderful tennis center. Come check us out and find out more information about NTC!

Also, there will now be a year-end tournament for After 8 players based on their rankings throughout the year with prizes. Call in and start playing…secure that top spot!

 

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It is with much appreciation that we welcome you to our website!

The Newington Tennis Center is a tennis center that is located right on the Newington/Wethersfield line off of the Berlin Turnpike on Prospect Street in Newington, Connecticut.

We pride ourselves on providing a home like environment for the wonderful tennis players, their families and friends, and for general tennis fans and supporters that come through our doors. We have been a staple in the community for decades and passionately serve those of all ages and abilities from throughout the state and region with friendly and personable staff off the court as well as engaging and skilled professionals on the court.

This website will not only offer its visitors with general information about the facility and its staff, but also have tennis related articles, match reviews and tips for all those interested, no matter where you live.

With the wonder of the digital age and the internet, anyone interested in sports, and tennis specifically, should keep tabs on our site for help on their game, reviews of some tournaments and big matches, as well as each player, and other entertaining tidbits and articles that may suit your fancy. We encourage any and everyone to comment on what we put up and we will be sure to respond and carry on the conversation. It could get pretty interesting when more advice and match/player reviews get posted. Again, we would love to have a back and forth with you.

And of course, if you are interested in or already are frequenting our facility, some of the information on here will be more relevant to you on a day-to-day basis.

We appreciate you for checking us out and hope to hear from and see you soon!