Summer clinic offers Janesville youngsters a taste of tennis

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010
— Can you imagine cheering a Grand Slam tennis champion from Janesville?

OK, finding a future Wimbledon champ among 40 young participants in the month-long Quickstart program held Thursdays at the Palmer Park tennis courts is about as likely as Rafael Nadal giving up a two-set lead in the Wimbledon finals.

But tennis champions have to start somewhere.

Wimbledon is the furthest thing from 6-year-old Brody Metcalf’s mind, but he sure likes his tennis.

“You could tell he played a lot of stuff with somebody, Mom or Dad,” program director Camilla Owen said. “I moved him up to the 8-year-olds. He’s very athletic.’’

Brody didn’t play a lick of tennis until his mother, Beth, entered him and his sister, Gabby, in the program. Mom is happy that Brody is strutting his stuff.

“He loves tennis. He really does,” Beth said. “We’ll keep doing it until they’re well on their way.”

Metcalf said her husband plays “a little” tennis, but neither was a big fan of the game—until now.

Metcalf said the program is a bargain.

“It was a great deal,” she said. “They got tennis racquets, shirts, balls, and then they get instruction.’’

Quickstart is a national youth tennis program developed by the U.S. Tennis Association.

Owen, a former high school coach and state tennis activist; Sharon Terry, a former high school coach and Janesville Tennis Association president, and a handful of adults and high school players are instructing budding tennis stars from 5 through 10 years old.

“I was looking at another way to teach tennis,” Owen said. “I’ve been kind of watching it.’’

Owen arranged for a clinic to teach the program to her and her assistants.

“We had 14 kids and adults come to the clinic to learn it,” Owen said. “Everything is developmentally set up.’’

Quickstart keeps tennis fun. In the process, the participants learn how to play the game.

“The balls are bigger for the younger players. They are less pressurized, so when you get hit, they don’t hurt,” Owen said. “They are comfortable with the balls and the racquets.”

The youngsters are paired off into 5-6, 7-8 and 9- and 10-year-old groups. Pairing the age groups keeps the skill levels even.

“The 5-year-olds’ and 6-year-olds’ development is about the same,” Owen said.

The younger players practice on a half-court separated by a smaller portable net.

The kids are divided into teams. Alley Cats, Slammers, Top Spinners and Deuces grab their racquets, and Owen puts them through their paces.

“Where’s the net, where’s the baseline, where’s the center mark?” Owen asks her students. “Shake hands with your racquet.”

The drills without a racquet include dribbling the ball with the left hand and then right hand. And the small army of players even marches while bouncing tennis balls.

Owen watched the program last year and thought it could work in Janesville.

“It’s a good program for the community,” Owen said. “It should be a big hit.’’

It’s already made a big impression on Brody Metcalf. And it has the all-important mother’s seal of approval.

“I think if you ask all the moms here, they will say they are very satisfied with this program,” Beth Metcalf said.

Last updated: 2:23 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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