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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673
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Disappointment over loss of tennis director

12/14/2006 

To The Editor:       

I am writing regarding the impending departure of Mike Smookler as tennis director at Sugarbush and my disappointment that Sugarbush has allowed this to happen.

Mike has been a great asset both to Sugarbush Resort and The Valley. Losing him may have a far more profound effect than I believe management at Sugarbush has even considered. On a personal level Mike will be missed tremendously as he helped to rekindle my and my wife's interest in tennis. For my two children he helped to foster an interest in tennis. For my youngest in particular who has weekly private lessons with Mike and refers to him affectionately as "coach" the loss is tremendous. He has helped her to elevate her self-esteem and aspire to a strong work ethic as well as become an enthusiastic and strong little tennis player.

Mike's child and junior tennis programs have inspired and fostered a new generation of tennis players. His unbridled enthusiasm and skill as an instructor of tennis is infectious and prompted us to buy a family membership at the SHARC. We participate in various tennis clinics, camps, special events, private and semi-private lessons, drills and weekly round-robins, again attributable largely to Mike. He has affected not only us but also many other full- and part-time Valley residents and families.

Mike is far more than merely a tennis instructor; he is an advocate for the sport of tennis and sports in general. Through his various tennis camps and special events he has generated interest and attention to tennis locally as well as helped promote Sugarbush and The Valley nationally attracting people who spend money on lodging, food etc. As a result of Mike's activities he has gained recognition and respect throughout the tennis community which is what led to him being pursued and wooed to take a job in southern New Jersey. As I write this Sugarbush has made no attempt to counter-offer as way of trying to keep him and his family here in The Valley. Surely it would not have taken much to retain his employment with Sugarbush given his love for the area and his desire to build a following.

As a life-long Valley resident I have great hopes for the future with the current owners of Sugarbush. Unfortunately with all current efforts and energies being concentrated at Lincoln Peak some details are seemingly being overlooked.

Sugarbush needs a strong tennis program and facilities if it is truly going to be a player as a four-season resort. Sugarbush cannot let talented, hardworking, positive-influence employees slip away as this has negative effects on both Sugarbush and The Valley as a community.

Chris Behn, Warren, VT

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