Last March, “06880” featured an unlikely sports story.
Bridgeport’s Central High School had boys and girls tennis teams. Had is the right word — budget cuts eliminated funds for both sports.
Andrew McConnell swung into action.
His story is as unlikely as his team’s. The longtime Westporter spent 2 decades on Wall Street. But a decade ago he switched careers. He’s now a 9th grade social studies teacher at Central — and the tennis coach.
Because tennis was life-changing for some of his players — it builds confidence, and teaches leadership and character — he set out to save Central tennis.
Stop & Shop donated Gatorade and bagels (home teams provide food for themselves and their opponents). The Connecticut Alliance for Tennis and Education pitched in with racquets.
One of the biggest costs is transportation. McDonnell — who is on the board of First Serve Bridgeport — got that after-school program to serve as a conduit for fundraising.
He had a bold idea: Buy a van. That would not only help with transportation fees (school buses are exorbitant to rent); it could also be used by First Serve throughout the year.
McConnell set up a GoFundMe page. The “06880” story brought an outpouring of donations, including a substantial gift from Westporters Mike and Becky Goss.
That helped purchase — and renovate — a van.
Then, First Serve Bridgeport endowed the team with its first college scholarship. Girls captain Phonsavanh Keophannga now attends Fairfield University.
But there’s more: FCIAC coaches honored the girls team with the league’s Sportsmanship Award.
And McConnell was named Boys Tennis Coach of the Year.
Voicing support for Central’s program was Staples state champion boys coach (and former FCIAC awardee) Kris Hrisovulos. He cited the Bridgeport school’s effort, sportsmanship and character.
McConnell returns the compliments. “My team and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to compete with the best teams in the state — and more importantly, to allow our players a chance to excel on and off the court,” the Westport educator/coach/mentor says.
(Click here to learn more about First Serve Bridgeport.)