OSWEGO, NY – Elementary school age youngsters got to show off their tennis skills and win some neat prizes recently.
A USTA Tennis Program “Olympics” was held at the Riley Elementary School tennis court. Several 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 the summer coordinator for the USTA Tennis Program this year.
As AmeriCorps members, they educate youth fitness, Bergman said.
“It went pretty well! We didn’t get as good of a turn out as we had hoped, but the kids that did come had a lot of fun,” she said.
Morgan Mears is the AmeriCorps member who is running this year’s “Tennis Olympics.”
It is her community involvement project for the summer.
This is her first summer with the USTA Summer Tennis Program, but her second term as an AmeriCorps member. She was previously placed at Mexico Elementary School.
She’s running the olympics to get children interested in and loving tennis the way she does, she noted, adding that she hopes the Olympic theme will entice children that may not normally be interested in tennis.
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 14 different sites in the county each summer.
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.
“I am the summer coordinator for the USTA Tennis Program this year. It’s my first year in this position. But, I have been with the program three summers previously as an AmeriCorps member,” she said.
The youngsters earned prizes like jump-ropes, water bottles, Frisbees, 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.
“These were all carnival style games with tennis as the theme. Each child recieved a gold medal and a certificate of participation saying they completed the Summer Tennis Olympics,” Bergman said.
“Most of the kids that came to the event were kids that come to our tennis lessons during the summer. We have 14 sites thoughout the county, but these kids came from our open lesson on Mondays at Riley Elementary from 9-10 a.m.,” she continued. “A few others came from the YMCA and others heard about it from an article that ran in the media.”
Bergman praised Mears and her efforts is setting up the event.
“She is really stepping up to the plate and doing a wonderful job,” she said. “The Tennis Olympics is a huge project in itself and she did a great job organizing and preparing for the kids!”
The event “had many awesome donors,” she added.
Parratt Wolff Inc. was the biggest donor.
“They deserve a huge thank you! They donated an extremely generous monetary sum and we are so greatful for their help! Our program owes a huge debt of gratitude to them for their charitable donation and goodwill!” Bergman said. ” Mark’s Pizzeria came through with some prizes for the kids. They donated all of the sports bottles that we gave away as prizes along with two gift certificates. Fajita Grill donated some FG Bucks, and Ruby Tuesday had a fundraiser for us so they were also a big help!”
For more information about the USTA Tennis Program, call 349-3451.