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Local children learning the basics at tennis camp

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Stockbridge resident, Tonysha Ayes, was not looking forward to attending tennis camp at the Clayton County Tennis Center when her parents told her she had been signed up for the program.

Ayes, 13, had never played tennis, and she had no interest in the sport. She was being signed up for the class because her step-sister, Breyanna McCoy, 9, is a tennis fan, who was interested in attending the camp. As a result, sibling rivalry almost came to a head over tennis camp enrollment.

"She didn't speak to me for a week," McCoy said.

However, Ayes' attitude changed a few days into the camp. It was not the dreaded tennis camp, any longer, but a fun place she enjoyed everyday.

"It's pretty cool," she said. "I like playing against other people, and making new friends at the same time."

Ayes and McCoy are two of the 17 children from across the Southern Crescent who are enrolled in the weekly tennis camps being offered at the Clayton County Tennis Center, located in the International Park in Jonesboro. The ages of the children range from 5 to 15.

The daily routine at the camp consists of drills in the morning, and technique work in the afternoon. Larry Graham, a coach, said he and fellow coach, Jerome Dean, plan the camp's daily schedule around the heat. "We have the children do their drills in the morning, because that's when its about 70 degrees outside," Graham said. "Since its about 90 degrees outside during the afternoon, we have the kids do the lighter stuff at that time ...

"We also make sure we have cold water on the courts at all times, and we have the kids go inside for 15-minute water breaks every 45 minutes, so they won't get dehydrated in this heat."

Graham said the Tennis Camp organizers plan for two trips to the beach during the week, so they can make it more than just tennis drills. He cited that as part of the reason why the camp has had a 100 percent retention from the first 2008 camp, to the next one. Graham also said the camp picks up two or three new participants each week.

It's not uncommon to walk by a court at the tennis center and see rows of youths practicing their set, rotation, serve and follow through. Dean, another coach, barks the commands, "Set, Rotate, Serve, Point, Follow Through," as the children practice each step in slow motion.

Like Ayes, many of the children who were signed up for the camp were signed up by their parents even though the youths were not the biggest tennis fans.

"My parents signed me and my little brother up for the camp, so we would have something to do this summer, rather than stay at home all day," said Demont Davis, 13, a resident of Jonesboro. "I was kind of upset at first, but curious at the same time. I wanted to see what tennis is like. It's been a little difficult, but I've learned different techniques and ways to hit the ball. I'm enjoying it, so far."

Not every camp participant had to be pushed by a parent to sign up, though. Taylor Brooks, 14, of Ellenwood, said she wanted to sign up for the camp because she thought it looked like fun. She said the camp has been a valuable learning experience, although she is not sure how much tennis she will play after the camp is over.

"I've learned so much about hitting the ball, the parts of the tennis court, parts of the racquet and proper form," she said. "I've only been in camp for a couple of days, but the repetition of doing everything over and over again has really been a tremendous help."

Jasmine Harris, 13 of Jonesboro, signed up for the camp because she saw it as a fitness routine for the summer months. "It's good exercise to run around the court chasing the ball," she said.

Dean said the goal of the camp is to teach the basics of tennis to the children, so they will be able to continue playing the sport for years to come. "We don't want to just be a daycare for these children," he said. "We want to teach them real tennis skills, so they can become competitive tennis players."

The camp is going on every week, from now until the week of July 28, with the exception of June 30 through July 4. It costs $85 to sign up for one week of the camp. Interested persons can call (678) 479-5016, for more information.