One of the greatest surprises of our summer has been the Tuscaloosa Tennis Association’s Junior Tennis Camp. Both Max and Micah yodeled with glee before arriving at Bowers Park at 8:30 in the morning every day for the past week.
For $25, both kids attended a morning session in which they received one-on-one training with free snack and drink breaks and a lovely t-shirt to take home at the end of the week. Raquets and balls are provided by the TTA. This makes tennis clinic affordable for single-income families like ours- and it opens the doors of the closed country-club mentality to involvea more diverse group of young community members in the fun of playing and learning tennis.
For Micah and other beginning beginners, the focus was on hitting the ball- gaining familiarity and feeling for the way in which the racket absorbs the shock of the ball. Building a taste for the excitement of making contact with the ball and moving it through the air. Cultivating the taste for tennis.
Micah takes a swing at the ball- and misses. But no one points out that obvious fact because, well, it’s obvious.
I really appreciated the consistently encouraging voices and remarks from the coaches, whose personal love for tennis shone forth in their persistence and excitement. The temperature stayed in the 90s and the humidity level was so high that my glasses fogged whenever I climbed out of the car, but no one complained.
Given the volunteer aspect of the staffing, Max and Micah learned from what I consider to be “the best”. That means no surly, spoiled young tennis pros who were teaching for the purpose of making money- everyone on the courts was motivated by a desire to share their love for tennis with kids. I think that made a palpable difference in the atmosphere as well as how much my kids enjoyed it.
When I inquired about additional sessions this summer, I was sad to learn that no more are slated for the year. The clinic was manned by the TTA board members, who need more volunteers- more hands and feet on the ground- to help with this wonderful project.
On the last day of the clinic, the kids participated in an actual tennis tournament. I was a little worried because Max seemed nervous and Micah made comments, true to self, which were overly focused on winning. As I drove to the park to drop them off, we repeated a little mantra aloud: “Losing is learning. Losing is LEARNING. Learning rocks!”
As it turned out, Max won the Blue Ribbon in doubles alongside his partner, Nate. But he still can’t get over how “cool” the tournament turned out.
Here’s the scoop as Max related it to me: Lucy and Kelly beat Max and Nate in the first round, but Max and Nate won in the third round, and then they played Julie and Hannah and won that game. Because Lucy and Kelly lost in the fifth round, they ended playing Max and Nate again. But, in Max’s words, “this time we were ready. And WON.”
If you’d like to help the TTA continue their incredible program next year, visit the Tuscaloosa Tennis Association’s website and volunteer to help keep this program going for local kids. Just email Alan Cunningham at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask how you can help them increase the frequency of junior tennis camps and clinics in Tuscaloosa.