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A legacy of Calgary tennis
The allure of Rico Policarpo is contagious. His love of community and passion for tennis, along with his thick Italian accent, is at the root of Aforza and all it has come to be. Rico established the club in 1974, at just 24 years old. Since then, Aforza has become the club in Calgary for competitive and recreational tennis, now the largest indoor tennis club in all of Western Canada.
Rico grew up in Milan, Italy. His first job was as a ball boy at just 10 years old, working with the tennis pros of that time. He was hooked on tennis from then on, admiring the athletes he watched and inspired to be just like them. Years later, his brother led him to Calgary with promises of opportunity in the sport he loved and all his tennis dreams come true. He’d grown up with stories of Canada as well, it’s open skies and wild tales of cowboys and adventure, and he’d always dreamed of having a horse.
The Alberta landscape didn’t disappoint. He recalls driving to Banff one evening with his brother and a full moon. “It was bright enough to light up the sky, we didn’t even need headlights. It was incredible. I’d never seen something so amazing. The open sky was everywhere. I’d never seen anything like it in Milan.” His second love.
He started The Tennis Club here in Calgary, now Aforza, shortly after. Once his lease ran out on the outdoor courts he was using, Rico was determined to make tennis accessible throughout the winter months. He covered six outdoor public tennis courts with a bubble and attached an Atco trailer to serve as a clubhouse. The beginning of the Aforza family. In summer 2000, we expanded with four new indoor courts, a large clubhouse with men’s and women’s locker rooms, a well-equipped pro shop and a fully serviced lounge.
Rico was a great player and worked hard as a coach. He insists it was more than a job, it was “his love, his home and his passion.” When asked about his accomplishments as a player, Rico quickly diverts to his accomplishments as a coach. He said, “My passion was coaching and I loved working with our juniors most. My goal was to achieve national titles and we did. I’m certain we have the most combined titles and that no other club can compare.” He was dedicated to his players and the strategy of staying positive and always coming together to support each young athlete. Parents, players and coaches all working to achieve the same goals.
“Anyone can teach strokes,” he said, “but a real coach gets players to perform under stress. I was good at motivating my players and parents, and ensuring we were all on the same side. That’s the key, working together and truly loving the job.”
Rico has coached many of our members and current coaches, his son Alex is even a coach now. Current owner, Jeff Spiers said, “Rico has always been an icon for the sport of tennis in Calgary. He is by far one of the most passionate coaches I have every worked with. Rico had a way of inspiring his players to find an effort level that few knew they could reach. As a player, sometimes I felt like I would run through a brick wall for Rico if he asked me to. There are few people in this province who can say they have done as much for the sport of tennis as Rico did.”
Co-owner Karen Spiers agrees. She said, “His passion for tennis and his dedication to promoting and maintaining this sport in the hockey-centric city of Calgary has made it possible for my kids to also develop their passion for the sport too. I will always appreciate Rico for that.”
Can you imagine? A thriving tennis community and club created from a young man’s passion for the sport and for people, and his boyhood dreams of wide-open spaces filled with cowboys on horses and tennis pros. Only in Canada can such odd, yet exceptional, dreams come true. That is how Aforza began. What an incredible legacy.
Rico has long since hung up his racquet and tennis shoes. He comes into the club rarely, but watches tennis on tv often. His passion for tennis is still so evident as is his love affair with the beauty of this province and city. He’s put in his time and he’s content with it, “I loved it. The people most. I wish Aforza all the very best. I hope they keep up the job and keep loving it.”
After all these years in business, we’re so proud of our amazing team and our people. Love the game and love the people, that’s our goal.
And wouldn’t you know it? Rico did get that horse.
Join us. Aforza is open to all. Great people make a great club, and we are only as good as our people.
Read more about our history and alumni legacy.