When thinking of Milbank and its tennis programs, one family always comes to mind – the Cantines. Larry and Loretta Cantine, along with sons Kevin, Greg and Scott, were honored as the Northern United States Tennis Association’s 2015 Family of the Year for their countless contributions to the tennis community.
The Cantines received their award at USTA Northern annual awards dinner at the Minnesota Valley Country Club in Bloomington, MN. The award is given to one family from North Dakota, South Dakota, or Minnesota that has been outstanding in the promotion of tennis both on and off the court.
“It was a very difficult process as we received the most awards nominations.” stated Lisa Mushett, USTA Northern awards staff liaison. Competing against a large number of other nominees, the award solidifies the hard work and passion this family has for tennis.
The Cantines were nominated for the award by Ron and Zach Waletich of Milbank, who have also been instrumental in building up the local tennis program. “We have yet to meet a family that cares more about the game of tennis than the Cantines,” explained Zach. “When you hear the Cantine name, you immediately think ‘tennis’. It is not just their own passion for the game, but the way they constantly look to grow and teach the game to the Milbank youth and community members.”
Larry was inducted into the South Dakota Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010 and is often know as “Mr. Milbank Tennis”. He was the recipient of the SD Tennis Hall of Fame’s Love Serving Tennis Grant in 2003 and serves the area players by restringing rackets. He spent over 40 years as president of the Milbank Community Tennis Association, only recently passing that duty to his oldest son, Kevin. “If you are acquainted with Larry, you know that tennis will come up in any conversation,” chuckled Zach. “Even if you have never played the sport, he will find a way to get you involved.”
Larry is the only person able and willing to restring rackets for anyone in need, which saves a lot of players time and money. “There were times in high school where my tennis strings would break the day before a match, but Larry was always willing to make sure it got restrung for the match the next day,” stated Zach.
The Cantine family had the local tennis complex named after them in 2003 – Cantine Courts. The entire family helped organize the first Level 8 tournament and USTA Play Day this past summer to introduce juniors to the sport. Kevin ran a summer program aimed at kids ages 12-16 to teach the fundamentals of tennis while improving their game. Each person in the family is a member of the USTA and helps organize leagues, team exchanges, Fundraisers, camps, as well, as working with Combined Appeal to show the value of tennis-related activities.
According to the Waletichs, Kevin has been the driving force in organizing and running a men’s summer league as well as league matches with out-of-town teams. “’It’s Kevin’s way of making tennis fun,” noted Zach. “He also has spearheaded court improvements and is always seeking ways to increase interest and participation in the sport
Kevin was involved in improving the lighting at the courts, purchasing a new ball machine, implementing handicapped accessible walking paths, adding 10 and under lines on the courts for the youth, fundraising for the high school teams and bringing in collegiate coaches to work with juniors. “Kevin helped me out with tennis lessons this past summer,” said Zach. “I so appreciated that. He’s not too bad of a player either – keep the ball away from his forehand!”
Greg Cantine, the middle son, also contributes to the local tennis community but tends to get overlooked, according to Zach. “He’s not only one of my favorite teachers of all time, but also one of the most fun guys to play against in tennis,” Zach exclaimed. “He is a great motivator and always has something positive to say about you or your game.” Greg has been involved in the summer camps and leagues and is often seen playing on the courts himself.
“The Cantines are most deserving of this honor as I have never met a family that cares more about the sport,” said Milbank resident and tennis enthusiast Ron Waletich. “Teaching, promoting, playing, and talking about the game- there is only one thing on all of their minds – tennis!”
Milbank is one of the smaller towns across the state and one of the smaller high school teams competing, but has a huge tennis program, thanks to the Cantine family. “The small communities have a hard time getting a program going and keeping it alive,” said Zach. “I can tell you that a huge part of Milbank’s successful program is because of the Cantine family. We thank them for that!”
USTA Northern, a non-profit based in Bloomington, Minn., is one of 17 Sections that make up the United States Tennis Association and covers Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Northwestern Wisconsin. The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the United States and has more than 760,000 members. It owns and operates the US Open and the US Open Series. In addition, it selects the teams for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the Olympic and Paralympics Games. It invests 100% of its proceeds to promote and develop the growth of tennis, from the grassroots to the professional levels. For more information on USTA Northern, log on towww.northern.usta.com.