OSWEGO, NY – Elementary school age youngsters got to show off their tennis skills and win some neat prizes recently.
A USTA Tennis Program carnival was held at the Riley Elementary School tennis court. More than two dozen young tennis players stopped by the court during the four-hour event.
The USTA Summer Tennis Program began in 2006 and is run through the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau.
“We try to do games that introduce basic tennis skills and give the kids a chance to get outside and exercise,” explained Leigh Bergman, coordinator of the USTA Tennis Program at the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau. “This is our first round (of kids) and it looks like we have more than a dozen already.”
AmeriCorps member Bergman was one of the volunteers working with the program. She has been an AmeriCorps member for five summers and also played for the Fulton tennis team in high school, she explained.
As AmeriCorps members, they educate youth fitness, she added.
The Oswego City-County Youth Bureau has been offering the United States Tennis Association Summer Tennis Program since 2006.
The Youth Bureau’s partnerships with the AmeriCorps program, local recreation programs and school districts, have allowed the tennis program to visit several different sites in the county each summer.
Three USTA trained staffers instruct one-hour sessions, once a week, using tennis-related activities to introduce children to the game.
“The main objective of the program is to have kids get some exercise and have fun,” Bergman said.
Shane Evans has been playing tennis since the seventh grade.
“Tennis has always been a part of my life. My (Pulaski) high school art teacher was also the tennis coach. She got me into art and tennis. She was a big influence on my life,” he explained.
At the tennis carnival, he combined his two passions. At the end of the various tennis events, he assisted the youngsters in creating a work of art — using paints and tennis balls as the brushes.
The youngsters earned prizes like jump-ropes, hats, sunglasses and more for competing at different skill areas.
They had to return a serve and hit one of several prizes on the opposite side of the net and hit targets on a wall during a serve accuracy challenge.
During the obstacle course, the youngsters had to control their tennis balls on their racquets as they navigated the route.
They also had to run with a “tennis ball” to a bucket of water and then race back to their cups with the soggy ball and squeeze it out into the cup. The first to overflow their cup won the challenge.
“We ended up being busy all day. We ended up doubling the amount of kids we had last year,” Bergman, said. “We finished with 24 kids ranging from 2-10 years old. Everyone had a great time and we also want to send out a huge thank you to our sponsors Parratt Wolff, Mark’s Pizzeria and Ruby Tuesday.”
AmeriCorps members Brenna Merry and Shane Evans ran the event.
Other volunteers included: Meaghan Puff, Evan Oustrich, Cassie Tighe, Tyler Gain, Diamond Brossoit, Eric Centner, Laurie Merry and Sue Evans.
For more information about the USTA Summer Tennis Program, call 349-3451.