Amanda Matticks loves having the opportunity to serve, in many senses. As the captain of the Rider tennis team, Matticks finds herself serving – and returning – shots to and from her opponents during matches. But the senior Elementary Education and Psychology double major also often finds herself netting “service points” away from the varsity tennis court – and always for others.
Well-known as a member of the SGA Executive Board, the Council for Exceptional Children, Kappa Delta Pi education honor society, and Rider’s annual Relay for Life event, Matticks has also developed a program that really lets her put the “serve” in her mission of advocacy.
For the past three years, the Sewell, N.J., resident has hosted a tennis clinic for a group of approximately 30 children from the National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) of Trenton on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus. There, with the help of her teammates from the Broncs’ men’s and women’s tennis programs, Matticks provides instruction in the mechanics of the sport, but the real purpose, she says, is larger than the game.
“We run drills, like forehand, backhand and volley techniques, and the kids really click with the Rider team members,” said Matticks, a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference All-Academic honoree. “They all have played tennis before, and some are very talented, but in a lot of cases, this is the first time they have seen a college campus. I think that’s important. They’re able to take in the atmosphere, and meet some role models. They really look up to the Rider players.”
Founded in 1975, the NJTL of Trenton provides its children opportunities and instruction through tennis, education and nutrition programs. Headquartered in the shadow of the Sun Bank Center, NJTL of Trenton has helped shape the lives of more than 2,500 children between the ages of 5 and 17 through their programs, and has even provided tennis scholarships. Matticks has been associated with NJTL of Trenton since her sophomore year at Rider, when she interned for the nonprofit organization in its South Broad Street office. Today, she serves as Rider’s liaison to NJTL.
At the conclusion of the clinic, Matticks makes sure the children leave campus with more than just memories. “I give them a lot of free Rider goodies,” she said of gifts like Rider pennants, tennis balls and a bag. “It influences them to work harder, and it gives them the goal of attending college.”
If it seems as if Matticks’ concern for the futures of her young guests runs deeper than tennis, it’s true. Advocacy is something the Special Education minor calls a “passion,” and it cuts a wide swath across her entire life.
“Being a special education teacher is being an advocate,” explained Matticks, who spent the spring semester student-teaching in West Windsor. “When you’re working with special needs kids, you are there to focus on them and help them grow.”
Drawing a link between the special-needs population she plans to serve in the classroom and the kids from NJTL of Trenton, Matticks explains how, to her, the term “special needs” is not necessarily clinical.
“You’re not always talking about someone with a (clinical) classification,” she said, mentioning the often underprivileged children she serves through the tennis clinic. “Some of them struggle just for basic nutrition and fitness, which is why NJTL works with them on that, as well as things like life skills and education. You need to reach them at a young age and motivate them.”
Matticks’ focus on special education and advocacy traces back to her childhood, when she was naturally drawn to intervene on the behalf of some neighborhood peers.
“I had friends with siblings who had special needs,” she recalled. “I was always that person who would kind of help them along or stick up for them.”
Her involvement broadened through college, expanding to include psychology. In the fall of 2010, Matticks spent 14 weeks in London in the fall of 2010 through the CAPA international education program.
“I held a prestigious internship at a psychiatric unit, Collingham Child and Family Centre, part of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Schools,” she recalled. “I was a teaching assistant intern working with students with childhood schizophrenia, which I wouldn’t have to opportunity to do here. I also worked with children with some very rare disabilities and mental impairments, as well as with autism. The job experience I got there was priceless.”
While she considers her experience aboard a “must-do” that will ultimately sparkle on her résumé, Matticks’ record of service at Rider will always speak loudest on her behalf. It was, you might say, a “stroke” of good will.