A free program aimed at giving local youngsters the opportunity to learn the game of tennis is set to launch in Sarnia.
Called ‘Tennis for Kids,’ it pairs children aged 6 to 10 with scaled down courts and equipment to make it fun for them to play.
“It’s a common sense approach,” said Brian Clarke, a tennis instructor and Sarnia native who recently moved back here from British Columbia.
He has put together a new foundation with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sarnia-Lambton to offer the program, lessons and equipment at no cost.
The kick-off event is April 14 at Holy Trinity School, 60 Lorne Crescent, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Children should wear running shoes.
Clarke is a big fan of progressive tennis, which he knows from a similar program in Victoria that has more than 6,000 children participating.
With progressive tennis, also known as mini-tennis, novices aged 6 to 10 learn to play in stages. Portable nets can be set up anywhere as low as 18 inches and rackets are sized according to arm length.
Initially, a larger than normal foam ball is used. Over time, adjustments are made to accommodate the child’s size and skillset.
By age 12 players are using adult-sized equipment.
Clarke said progressive tennis began in Europe and has become the gold standard for getting youngsters interested in the game.
Professional players who came up through the system now dominate, he said, noting Canadian star Milos Raonic has been an ambassador for progressive tennis.
Clarke wants to shake tennis’ image as an elitist sport. It’s accessible, uses public courts, is relatively inexpensive and the health benefits are far reaching because it can be played your entire life, he said.
He noted youngsters can play without fear of concussion or injury associated with contact sports, and the game emphasizes good sportsmanship.
Once you learn the ropes, Clarke said, it’s pretty simple.
“You have two rackets, two children, a can of balls, a public court and you’re playing tennis.”
The April event is a springboard for an on-going children’s tennis program that will begin in January of 2019.
To register for the April 14 kick-off, email Clarke at [email protected]
A total of 128 spots are available.
For more information, call 226-886-3118.