WOONSOCKET — He may be a few years into his retirement as the head coach of Mount St. Charles Academy’s boys’ and girls’ tennis teams, but Richard Lawrence still believes in “preaching the gospel of tennis” and attends practices to help teach the sport he loves dearly.
Now that the school boasts its sparkling two-month-old, six-court tennis complex across Logee Street, the athletic director has had an extra hop in his step this fall in taking the short walk across Logee Street to work with the girls’ squad.
“I thoroughly enjoy every day I come out here,” added Lawrence. “The other day, after practice, I just stayed out here all alone for about a half hour and just walked around all the courts. I’ve never really done that. I was just kind of drinking it in and looking at where it was, how it looked, and how it felt.”
On Saturday afternoon, Lawrence got a chance to enjoy his home courts again, but this time, he didn’t do it alone.
Lawrence was joined by his family, former and current players, alumni and friends of the school, and faculty and staff members for the official inauguration of the new tennis courts. The event was being held in conjunction with the year-long celebration of the school’s 90th anniversary.
“When you dream dreams, they come true when you dream them together,” Mount president Herve Richer told the gathering at the beginning of the inauguration. “Thank you for dreaming with us and making this dream possible.”
Richer gave out plenty of thanks for the courts, starting with John Ford, the engineer whose “work, vision, and design brought this to us,” and continuing with Catalano Construction, Inc. of Cumberland, Donald Demers, the school’s Director of Institutional Advancement, Brother Roland Champagne, MSC’s Director of Facilities, and those who made donations for the construction of the courts.
Lawrence, who “probably coached 1,000 matches, boys and girls together” during a brilliant coaching career that began in 1971 and spanned four decades, also spoke and talked about his teams’ long histories as vagabonds.
When the boys’ team was formed in the early ’70s, they played on “two dilapidated concrete courts along the third-base line of the baseball field,” and from there, the boys played on two courts inside Adelard Arena and then returned outdoors to courts in Bernon Park and Social Park, on Fairlawn Avenue and Aylsworth Avenue, and for the better part of their (and the girls’ team’s) existence, the High Ridge courts in Lincoln.
“Today marks the beginning of a new generation of tennis players,” admitted Lawrence, who received a plaque for his dedication to the tennis program (which hangs near the entrance to the two back courts) from the girls’ tennis team before its season opener. “I hope that this will be a place that many more young people will learn the game and enjoy playing it.”
Deacon Anthony Gagliani, the school’s Director of Campus Ministry, also blessed the courts with holy water and gave the invocation, and afterwards, everyone on hand was treated to a barbecue lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs and given the opportunity to grab a tennis racket and play on the courts.
“This is all very touching,” said Lawrence. “It’s good. I really believe in preaching the gospel of tennis. I think it’s a game for life. Of all the sports, this is one you can do with your family, and you can do it right to the end, so I preach that gospel.”
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