Local fifth-graders learning tennis from pros

Predominantly Black Champion and Westside are participating in the first-year program.

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

The United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) has teamed up with Volusia County Schools to teach local schoolchildren the game of tennis.

Armani Martin of Westside Elementary is learning to play tennis at her school.

The tennis pros are going into schools and teaching fifth-graders the fundamentals during physical education classes over a three-week period.

USPTA members who normally train youngsters aspiring to make the professional circuit are assisted by the physical education teachers and coaches at the schools.

“The program has been received very positively. These schools are really having a great experience. We did a needs assessment to see where our schools were in regards to tennis and many had the sufficient equipment to do such a program,” said Dr. Grace Kellermeier, coordinator of World Languages and Health & Physical Education for Volusia County Schools.

Tennis for anyone
Tom Kelly, tennis manager of Florida Tennis Center/Daytona Beach, noted, “I am very excited about this program to teach kids tennis in our schools.”

Kelly created the program with a goal to teach kids tennis. A good number of African-American kids also are participating.

“We want to bring tennis to everyone. Westside and Champion Elementary schools are on board, which are predominantly African-American or have high numbers of African-Americans,” Kelly related.

Along with Westside and Champion, other local schools participating in the program include Ortona in Daytona Beach, Calvary Christian Academy, Pine Trail and Tomoko of Ormond Beach, Citrus Grove and George Marks in DeLand and Cypress Creek in Port Orange.

Williams’ influence
The popularity of African-American tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams have attracted more Black kids to tennis, especially girls.

Kelly explained, “We do want to see more African-Americans and minorities in tennis, but the influence of Venus and Serena Williams has really pushed the younger kids, especially African-Americans and particularly more African-American girls.

He continued, “Also, Sloan Stevens won the U.S. Open this year. She attended an academy in Florida. In, Florida tournaments alone you see more and more African American girls playing. They want to grow up and be like the Williams’ sisters.”

Skills contest
The students will compete in the skills challenge during the Daytona Beach Women’s Pro Tennis Championships at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach on Jan. 13. The Women’s Pro Tennis Championship runs from Jan. 7-14 and is sponsored by DME Sports Academy.

“It will kind of be like the NBA All-Star skills contest during NBA All-Star weekend, but this will be for the kids. They’ll show off hitting ball with forehand and back hand as well as other skills. They’ll have fun. It will be pizza, prizes and awards,” stated Kelly.

First year
The skills competition focuses on hitting a tennis ball and moving while doing it.

It will consist of the following five skills demonstrations – back hand, forearm, rally, 20-yard dash and shuttle run.

“Every kid is invited to the skills competition, which is extra motivation for the kids,” said Kellermeier.
“It is a wonderful program. We appreciate Mr. Kelly and the tennis pros’ hard work. This is our first year with the program. We will bring it back next year. At this time we plan to have it in 14 schools next year,” she added.

The teachers
Professional tennis teachers include Tom Kelly at Westside and Champion Elementary schools as well as Calvary Christian Academy; John Hudson, Arrice Robinson and Sid Moon of Cypress Creek Elementary; Dave Brown at Pine Trail; Kurt Collis at George Marks; Tom Shea at Ortona; Ian Fletcher at Champion Elementary and Calvary Christian. and Jan Buenner at Tomoka.

The Florida Tennis Center in Daytona serves as headquarters for the United States Tennis Association in Florida.

The USTA is the governing body of sanctioned pro and junior tennis events.

The Florida Tennis Center has hosted tournaments featuring some of the top tennis players that have become pro or are aiming to be pros.

Players who have competed in the Florida Tennis circuit include Taylor Townsend, Asia Mohamed, Robin Anderson, Francois Abanda, Daria Kasatkina (Russia), CiCi Belis and Shelby Rogers.

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