Craig's youth tennis has summertime boom

The tennis courts of Craig were packed with players Tuesday, signaling the start of the Parks and Recreation Department's youth tennis program.

The six-week program is aimed at children ages 8 through 12, and is geared for the beginner as a way of helping them learn the game.

"Tennis is a tough sport, so we try to give the kids a working knowledge of the game," Coach Karel Snell said. "We'll try to teach the kid about the different parts of the tennis court, some of the terminology and how they can work to improve their swing."

Progression can be slow for the aspiring tennis players, so Snell attempts to keep the practices light and interesting for the children.

Tennis, like any sport, requires constant drilling to be mastered. At the same time, Snell's main concern is keeping the children interested in the sport, so she has devised a system to synchronize fun with learning her drills masquerade as games.

"Tennis bowling is one of the games we play." she said. "We'll set up bowling pins on one side of the net, and a child will try and hit a ball to knock the pins down. We only had one boy who could hit the pins this week, so I think we'll have to move the pins up the next time."

Along with the games Snell incorporates, she also relies heavily on one-on-one coaching, although this can be difficult because of the increased popularity of the program.

The program's participation has dwindled in the past, with last year only bringing in four participants.

This year has had a boom though, with around 20 children entering the program.

The program has been so successful this year that Snell and the Parks and Recreation Department are flirting with the idea of another section later in the summer.

"Right now we're running two sections of the program every Tuesday and Thursday, and both are full," she said. "But some parents have requested another section be added, so if parents are interested in another section they should call the Parks and Recreation department."

If the third section of the program is added, it wouldn't begin until the end of August.

Though the youth program has picked up steam over the past year, there are a few factors that are still working against it.

"The problem is that the high school doesn't offer a tennis program, so a lot of the kids attraction to the sport is curbed because they can't continue on after the youth tennis," Snell said. "I am just gratified that so many kids have taken interest in the program this year, I hope that I can build a love for the game in the kids."

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