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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    5th graders cause racket

    Cassandra, 10, from Fort Lowell Elementary School receives tennis lessons from the UA mens and womens tennis team.
    Cassandra, 10, from Fort Lowell Elementary School receives tennis lessons from the UA men’s and women’s tennis team.

    The UA tennis teams stared down their toughest competition of the season yesterday at Robson Tennis Center and were entirely overmatched.

    Eighty fifth-graders from 11 Tucson Unified School District elementary schools swarmed the facility for the sixth annual Kids’ Day at the UA.

    The event, sponsored by the Tucson Community Tennis Program, was meant to introduce tennis to kids who are unlikely to get involved in the sport and also offer them a fun recreational activity to help keep them active.

    “”It’s great for these kids. They had no idea about tennis until this organization became involved,”” said Tad Berkowitz, head coach of the UA men’s team. “”It’s a nice way for these kids to be able to get involved in tennis, and, hopefully, one day, they can move on to the high school level, and if not, maybe the college level down the road.””

    The teams got involved with the program six years ago after it contacted Bill Wright, Berkowitz’s predecessor, to see if his squad would be interested in helping increase awareness of the sport, as well as provide the school an opportunity to give back to the community.

    Wright jumped at the chance, and today Berkowitz said he uses the event to help expand the sport’s presence and impact in the Tucson community.

    Senior Claudio Christen was among 12 members of the men’s and women’s teams with the daunting task of corralling the youngsters.

    But he held his serve as he and sophomore Katie Orletsky helped a group of 11 Reynolds Elementary students find their inner tennis star.

    “”I like doing it because when I was young I liked looking up to somebody who I knew was a good player,”” Christen said. “”I just like giving back to the kids and letting them have fun. They need to have fun, I think.””

    Dakota Lewis, a Reynolds fifth-grader, said his favorite part was “”just getting out there and whacking balls,”” while classmate Jocelyn Valencia liked “”just going out there and playing and having fun.””

    Dolores Davenport, board president of the Tucson Community Tennis Program, considers the event a way to get out and see the university.

    “”Maybe it will plant the seed for these kids that, firstly, there’s fun going on at the university, and that the university is an option,”” she said. “”To work with the UA students is really great. …They’re great role models.””

    The program utilizes volunteers to help teach tennis to students during school hours and also offers after-school sessions for the more eager participants.

    It targets fifth-graders because elementary schools don’t have an official physical education program that middle schools and high schools offer, Davenport said.

    It’s also important to get kids physically active at a young age, she said.

    After a brief introduction to tennis basics and a handful of lessons, the kids score their first ace as they “”graduate”” from the program during a ceremony at the Randolph Tennis Center at Reid Park.

    Each graduate receives a brand new tennis racquet and a can of balls for their efforts.

    “”It’s a real reward to see these kids out there having fun,”” Davenport said. “”It just amazes me how quickly they pick up the sport.

    This marks the program’s 15th year, and close to 1,000 kids are expected to graduate from the program in two weeks, she said.

    “”We look for every opportunity possible to get some of the younger people involved so that the fifth-graders, and the middle schoolers that we try to keep playing, can see that it’s sort of a lifetime sport,”” Davenport said. “”You can play it as a youngster and you can play it as a senior.””

    For more information on the Tucson Community Tennis Program, visit www.TCTPforKIDS.org

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