By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
"We play tennis NOMATA what!" That’s the motto of the New Orleans Metro Area Tennis Association, whose acronym, NOMATA, perfectly applies to its attitude towards tennis.
The New Orleans Metro Area Tennis Association, a Community Tennis Association (CTA) in New Orleans, provides all kinds of tennis programming, from 10 and Under Tennis for kids to adult and senior leagues.
And on March 19, NOMATA held its youth registration event – one of over 700 happening at facilities across the country during March – at Audubon Park Tennis Center with over 150 children in attendance taking part in a variety of tennis drills and 10 and Under Tennis.
The children were first greeted by Dwayno the clown as they arrived, who then guided them to the first set of 11 warm-up activities, designed to improve the skills they need for tennis. They were also separated into age groups and given different color arm bands to designate their group and to make them feel like they were part of a team.
With the assistance of 30 volunteers, they then rotated through the 11 activity stations every eight to 10 minutes, including footwork, relay and target activities. They sharpened their hand-eye coordination by tossing and catching balls, they passed the ball from racquet to racquet as a team (in competition against another group across the net), and they did a beanbag toss from racquet to racquet.
For targets, an inflatable tennis player was set up for the children to practice their aim, as well as to try and hit the ball through various hoops.
Once they rotated through all 11 activities, it was free-play time on 36’ and 60’ 10 and Under Tennis courts set up for the occasion, depending on the age of the child. 10 and Under Tennis, featuring the QuickStart Tennis play format, scales the game of tennis down to the size of the child with smaller racquets, courts and low-compression balls to make the game easier to learn and more fun for kids.
The event was not just for seasoned young players. Parents and kids new to 10 and Under Tennis also received lots of information about various programs in the area, as well as how to purchase equipment at an informational table. Many people in the park that day came by the event after seeing all the fun going on and were thrilled to learn about the programs available for their children.
"This was really all about awareness and an introduction to the Quickstart format for these kids," said Kathy Hinrichs, NOMATA’s community coordinator. "We had our informational table set up, so our Junior TeamTennis (JTT) coordinator was there to talk to the parents about JTT, about what pros in clubs and what public facilities were offering QuickStart so they could see what is available to them in their area and also where they could purchase equipment so they can play at home."
NOMATA, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary as a CTA, runs both a spring and fall JTT league and, as a CTA, also runs a full schedule of tennis programming for adult and senior league tennis and three flex league seasons.
A lot of marketing went into the March 19 event over the last two and a half months in different areas in New Orleans to attract a variety of kids, with so many programs and festivals and other activities vying for kids’ attention in the busy area.
So far, Hinrichs has gotten lots of warm responses from parents about 10 and Under Tennis, who are excited about the opportunities it offers their kids.
"We have gotten nothing but positive feedback. Parents are already emailing us, asking, ‘What is the next thing coming up for my child?'" Hinrichs said. "They couldn’t be appreciative enough; they did not know this was offered to kids. We are starting to set up a database for this age group and their parents.
"New Orleans is just right for this," she added. "I think we have the potential to be a major tennis city for the whole family."