Participation in the sport of tennis has spiked locally and it’s all because of one teenager – Bianca Andreescu.
“More Canadians watched her beat Serena Williams in the final of the U.S. Open than watched the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals,” said Brian Clarke, a certified tennis instructor and organizer of the Tennis For Kids program.
Just days after the 19-year-old became the first ever Canadian singles player to win a Grand Slam championship, dozens of boys and girls attended one of the program sessions, Clarke said.
“And every one of them was there because of Bianca.”
Entering its third year in Sarnia, Tennis For Kids is a step-by-step program for players aged five to 11 to learn the skills and rules. Smaller court sizes and balls are introduced at first and increased as the game is learned, Clarke explained.
The program costs $25 and takes place at St. Matthew School, where the gym is divided into four courts. The first of three, four-week sessions starts on Jan. 18. The others begin Feb. 15 and March 28.
Clarke runs the program with local tennis pro Justin Bourassa, also a Tennis Canada instructor, with help from top-ranked high school players.
Many beginners playing for the first time on a large outdoor court get frustrated quickly and give up. Tennis for Kids highlights how to work with an opponent, striving to get a back-and-forth rally going, Clarke said.
It also stresses tennis etiquette and fair play.
This summer, an Ontario Tennis Association sanctioned tournament is also planned for program participants.
Others will be invited from Southern Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan to provide competitive play.
“It still doesn’t matter much who wins and who doesn’t, but the kids get exposed to how a tennis circuit works,” Clarke said.
“The concept with these tournaments is that every kid gets to play the same number of matches.”
Clarke is also working on a tennis program for elementary schools to help give other young students an early taste of the game, he added.