By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Some kids were already avid tennis players, some were fans and others held a racquet and stepped on a court for the very first time.
But whether they were continuing to enjoy the game they love or just being introduced to it, all the kids were enjoying the USTA Eastern Section’s 10 and Under Tennis clinic, featuring the QuickStart Tennis play format, at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Thursday as part of Kids’ Week at the New York City museum.
10 and Under Tennis, featuring the QuickStart Tennis play format, scales the game of tennis down to the size of the child with smaller courts, smaller racquets and the balls are lower in compression to make learning the game easier and more fun for children, much the same way as Little League scales down the game of baseball. With equipment suited to their size, younger children are able to sustain rallies and hit the ball with more success.
Thursday was Sports and Recreation day as part of the Intrepid’s annual Kids’ Week to give children opportunities to participate in lots of fun and interactive activities while on their President’s Week vacation from school, including playing 10 and Under Tennis and receiving an opportunity to meet Mr. Met, the mascot of the New York Mets.
As the children approached the court, they first tested their agility skills to work on footwork essential for tennis. They hopped over small, red cones, jumped through colored circles on the ground and then while balancing a bean bag on a racquet, walked and jumped their way through a rope ladder. Then it was time to hit the courts, which featured equipment provided by Wilson Sporting Goods.
Sean and Christopher Teitler, ages 9 and 6, respectively, from Staten Island, NY were among those children who received their first-ever tennis lessons from the on-court trainers from USTA Eastern and the Yonkers Tennis Center. They attended the clinic with their parents Janine and Mark. Mark Teitler is no stranger to tennis, having served as a police officer at the US Open for the past 13 years.
"It was really fun," Sean said of his tennis lesson. "I really liked hitting the balls with the racquet and being able to bounce the ball and watch it go over the net."
And it likely will not be end of the Teitler children’s tennis instruction.
"We live next to some tennis courts," Mark Teitler said. "We will get them out there playing this summer."
Also stepping onto a court for the first time was Tyler Gaston, 9, from Manhattan. He thought he took away a good feel for the game and enjoyed having his picture taken at a photo booth with a giant Wilson tennis racquet, which was set up for all children taking part in the clinic.
"I liked getting to hit the ball around," Gaston said. "I learned everything about tennis."
A few veteran players were happy to find the clinic while at the Intrepid, including brothers Suhas and Suchit Vennan of Scarsdale, NY. The two play tennis at Concordia College in the Bronx and also at Lake Isle Country Club in Eastchester, NY.
"It is just so fundamental and I have a passion for it," Suhas, 10, said of why he loves tennis. "My favorite parts of the game are serving, my forehand and playing at the net."
Suhas is a two-and-half year tennis veteran and a big Rafael Nadal fan while Suchit, 7, has been playing for a year and a half, and likes Roger Federer.
"It is fun, we get to play matches, points and games," Suchit said of why he loves tennis.
For Tyler Collinson, 7, of Long Beach, NY, tennis is her favorite sport and she has been taking lessons for the past two years.
"I love it. It is good exercise and I like to run a lot," she said. "I like hitting backhands the best, they are the easiest for me."
On court with the trainers, led by Simon Gale of the Yonkers Tennis Center, the kids were able to have a ball bounced to them to hit over the net and were showed how to hit a stroke from just inside the baseline as well as how to hit volleys.
Mr. Met even took his turn on the court with Gale, first receiving a little instruction on how to swing his racquet before rallying a little, to the delight of young fans, whom he greeted on his way off the court.
All the young fans were engaged and some new tennis players were created, including Adrian Tang, 5, from Forest Hills, NY, who was at the clinic with his father Wing. It was his first time playing tennis and he could not get enough of it.
"It was very fun. Hitting the ball was my favorite part. I thought I did good," he said just before running back in line for yet another turn on the courts.