A total of 30 underprivileged children ages 5 to 14 received lessons from the center’s pros and gained exposure to the game of the tennis that they normally wouldn’t be able to afford.
“We feel strongly that providing tennis lessons for these kids will give them an opportunity to learn and challenge themselves that they would not otherwise had,” center Special Events Coordinator Suzanne Thomas said.
For Thomas, the camp is more than about learning tennis.
“We want the kids to learn the game of tennis but also teamwork and sportsmanship,” she said. “You learn how to get along with others on the court. That’s all important to learn for young kids.”
Center Director Gery Groslimond was pleased how well everything ran.
“It’s been very, very smooth, surprisingly,” Groslimond said. “Parents have been good bringing [the kids], picking them up. It’s been like clockwork.”
The camp format is based on the U.S. Tennis Association’s 10-and-under program, which emphasizes smaller equipment that is easier for younger children to handle and makes the game more manageable and fun.
“For the younger kids, the courts are smaller and the rackets are smaller,” Groslimond said. “We provided rackets for anybody who didn’t have a racket and some didn’t.
“The main thing is to make tennis a fun experience and what’s really cool is with the little rackets and foam balls, you can play tennis in your house — hitting the ball back and forth — because the ball is so soft and the kids can rally.
“So we have the kids hitting rallies, because of the shorter court, smaller racket, shorter net and soft ball. So, the real question is can they get a fun experience?”
Groslimond was encouraged by the progress that the young tennis beginners made during the week.
“The kids have picked up the hand/eye coordination very well,” he said. “We bounce the tennis balls up and down the court every day, we do hand coordination drills. It’s the type of thing where we’re doing a hand/eye coordination drill, which is the main thing, and getting the stroke down. Getting them to feel what a stroke is like. They can volley back and forth to one another. They won’t do it 20 times, but they’ll do it four, five or six times. They’ll keep the ball in play with each other and that’s good for kids who are just getting started. It gives them a sense of success.”
The camp for underprivileged kids is only the beginning for Groslimond, who has bigger plans for the future.
“We’re shooting for a year-round program,” he said. “We’re starting the fundraising process, just to be able to pay for the pros to teach the groups. I’m talking about kids who want to be good tennis players. The Sandy Springs Tennis Association does a fabulous job of going into schools and setting up programs at the schools. But what we’re interested in doing is trying to find kids who would really like to play tennis and become strong players and grow the game that way.”