Throughout the summer, the Parks and Rec department is offering tennis lessons to kids ranging all the way from ages 4-17. Younger kids are separated into pee-wee tennis for children 4 to 5-years-old while the older age group is set from 6 to 17 with multiple sessions available for all, no matter how simple the interest may be.
“She just wanted to play tennis,” said Jerry Hubatka, whose granddaughter Jordy Gallimore, 8, partakes in the lessons. “When we go camping there’s tennis courts and we play so she just wanted to try it out. She enjoys it. It’s not bad. She’s learned a lot. She’s learned how to control the racquet and stuff. It’s good for her and the kids because it teaches social skills and keeps them active.”
Teaching the kids their first real lessons about the game of tennis is Mark Humes, who has been certified through the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) since 1985. Although he’s been teaching kids for close to three decades, Humes still enjoys seeing the kids learn how to play.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time, but my favorite part is still just seeing the kids’ progress,” Humes said. “Watching them learn and progress, and get better, is always fun. They learn fast. You start them off as beginners and then they continue to learn the different strokes. It’s great to watch.”
Humes has been able to see so many kids develop their tennis skills over the years. Part of that reason is because so many parents keep bringing their children back for more lessons under Humes patient instruction.
Matt Kaplan currently has his daughters Isabel, 6, and Sophie, 4, enrolled in the tennis classes and has appreciated the approach of Humes.
“He seems to be very organized and have some sort of lesson plan that he is following,” Kaplan said. “I think it’s much better than other sports, personally. You can actually see him building skills versus other sports that I don’t see as much of that. My only critique would be that it isn’t offered for a longer period of time or year long.”
Humes keeps the kids interested and focused by constantly introducing new techniques and games during the classes.
“I just try to mix up the activities a lot. I try to make it so that I’m giving them different activities so that they’re not doing the same thing all the time,” Humes said. “It’s good to mix them up a lot. They seem to like it a lot. They seem to have a good time and really enjoy it a lot. At least they say they have fun anyway. They like to play all the different tennis games. That’s their favorite part.”
Like many of the participants, Isabel Kaplan is a return enrollee, who was itching to get back out on the court. Little sister Sophie was eager to garner her first taste of tennis.
“They both just enjoy it a lot,” Matt Kaplan said. “Isabel did it last year. Sophie was kind of irritated last year because she couldn’t do it. Isabel couldn’t wait to get back out here though. I think she likes being out and running around with the other kids. She likes having a coach and he puts them through drills and all the activities they get to be involved with. I think she likes the sport in general because she’s done other ones and she seems to like tennis more than soccer or baseball that she has done. They both love it a lot. It’s just a good activity for them but we also just like the sport of tennis.”
The kids taking the lessons seem to take on the passion for tennis that their coach has.
“I just want to teach and pass on that tennis is a good lifetime sport,” Humes said. “It’s fun to play and it’s a family sport and it’s not very expensive to play. I just want to teach them the basics of tennis. I want them to learn all the strokes so that they get those down so that they understand the different strokes of tennis. And then they can get to a point where they can rally back and forth. Maybe they can come out with their parents and try to hit the ball back and forth. That’s kind of the goal of the lessons, to try to get them to that point. A lot of the kids seem to come back a lot of the time. They want to take more tennis lessons. That’s always good to see.”