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LEAGUE GETS STUDENTS IN SWING OF TENNIS

League gets students in swing of tennis

Kevin Patton, kevin.patton@thegleaner.com 5:17 p.m. CDT September 24, 2016

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Members of the Henderson Tennis Club's elementary league pose for a photo at the Doc Hosbach Tennis Complex in Henderson Tuesday. More than 60 students are participating in the six-week program for kids ranging from age 7 to 11.(Photo: Jason Clark / Gleaner)

 

When Cairo students Emily Cobb and Carson Thomas end their session in the Henderson Tennis Club's elementary league, they will hit a few balls at the practice wall at the Doc Hosbach Tennis Complex.

"We want to get more practice in," Thomas said.

"When they get done here, they’ll go hit on that wall because they don’t want to stop because they are having so much fun," said program director Kim Poynter.

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Makaela Humphrey competes in a match during the Henderson Tennis Club's elementary league at the Doc Hosbach Tennis Complex in Henderson Tuesday. More than 60 students are participating in the six-week program for kids ranging from age 7 to 11. (Photo: Jason Clark / Gleaner)

 

Cobb and Thomas are like most of the more than 60 students participating in the six-week program which is open to students in grades three through five. They had never picked up a racquet until they started playing in the league, which was resurrected last year after a hiatus of several years.

"Out of the 53 we had last year, maybe a handful had played before. We found out real quick it was going to be an instructional league versus competition. We didn’t have competition until the last week because they weren’t capable of playing a game until then," Poynter said.

Like Cobb and Thomas, most of students who were eligible returned this fall. With a few more players this year, the number of teams has increased from six to eight.

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Shyla Mathews, 9, of Henderson gets some help with her serve from Mason Johnson during the Henderson Tennis Club's elementary league at the Doc Hosbach Tennis Complex in Henderson Tuesday. More than 60 students are participating in the six-week program ranging from age 7 to 11. (Photo: Jason Clark / Gleaner)

 

Andi Slayton, 9, and Jazlyn Slayton, 7, are in their second year in the program. They already had some interest in tennis before joining the league because their mother Amanda Willett had played in high school. "They had a blast," said Willett, who is glad to see her daughters participating again this fall. "It gives them give something to do after school to be active. It (prepares) them if they want to play sports at the junior high and high school level showing them how to work homework around the practices."

The teams are school-based though some schools which don't have as many players are combined. Bend Gate and Holy Name each have two teams.

The players use a smaller court. Through a grant from the USTA, the 10-and-under lines are now painted on the downtown courts. They also use a different type of ball. "The compression is different so it doesn’t bounce as high. It’s more controllable for them to play a match," Poynter said.

Coaches try to keep the sessions fast-paced and fun for the students.

"USTA says the attention span at this age is maybe 20 minutes. We do 20 minutes of practice, then we play 20 minutes of one match. At the end of that 20 minutes, you stop and collect the scores and then you play another match for 20 minutes," Poynter said.

The "jail game" is popular with Cobb and Thomas, who were excited to explain the activity. "Coach throws you a ball and you have to hit it in the square. If you don’t hit in the square in two tries you go to 'jail," Thomas said.

"All of the coaches make it a point to keep it fun to keep them active, moving and laughing," said Josh Richmond, whose sons Mason, 11, and Cooper, 8, returned for their second year in the league.

The East Heights students make the rounds in the other youth sports."We play all of the other ones too - baseball, basketball, soccer," said Richmond, who helped coach in the tennis league last year and has noticed it isn't as much about the competition as other sports leagues. "This is more about just starting out and getting them introduced to it. The competitiveness isn’t as hard on them as in other sports. They are having a lot more fun out there."

Whitney Jenkins, whose third-grader Caden is a newcomer to the tennis league, has noticed the same thing.

"It's not where you have the coach's son who has played forever and is way better than everyone else," she said. "Since they are all learning, the pressure is off. They are all at the same level and you can tell that they all understand that."

 

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