Serving up tennis to young people

Published 9:53 pm Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tom Anderson of Suffolk has some compelling reasons for wanting to introduce as many area youths to the sport of tennis as he can, and the United States Tennis Association is going to help him in that endeavor.

“I’m sort of a lifelong local who grew up as a kid playing tennis, and even though I wasn’t a great tennis player, tennis has had a huge positive impact on my life,” said Anderson, now the coach of the very successful Western Branch High School boys’ tennis team.

Having done research, Anderson found that statistics show youths who play tennis have a significantly higher grade point average, and a higher percentage of them go on to college. Additionally, he said tennis players tend to have lower divorce rates, more children and tend to live longer lives.


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Anderson noted there are no guarantees in life, but if parents could increase the possibility that their children could experience the aforementioned benefits through tennis, he said, “Why wouldn’t you want your kid to participate in that?”

This perspective is why he said it has become one of his missions in life to grow tennis, specifically in the Western Branch and North Suffolk areas.

He acknowledged there have historically been drawbacks to getting into the sport. First, nobody is good at it the first time they play. Second, there has not been tennis equipment made specifically for younger players.

But the USTA has been making great strides, diminishing the severity of the first drawback and eliminating the second one entirely.

Matt Barnhart, USTA/Mid-Atlantic Section Jr. Team Tennis Manager, will be hosting a USTA Play Day on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Marlin Club in Chesapeake on 1964 Dock Landing Road. It will be free and open to anyone, including non-club members, but specifically geared toward children 12 and under.

Describing the unique approach he and his staff take to these events, Barnhart said they aim to give participants the opportunity to discover the game on their own by playing seven to nine five-minute matches in a day, with minimal intervention from court monitors.

“There’s not a lot of instruction, so this is not a practice or a clinic or a lesson,” Barnhart said. The goals are to teach youths how to serve, rally and keep score as they play.

All equipment will be provided, including rackets and balls specifically designed for young players. The USTA has developed at least four kinds of balls, some larger than normal and with lower compression, corresponding to various youth age groups.

Anderson’s Western Branch tennis players will serve as court monitors, occasionally providing guidance to participants.

In addition to round robin tournament play, there will also be carnival games designed to further teach the youths about tennis.

Anderson’s children, ages 4, 5 and 7, all play, and he hopes Saturday will give them someone to play with moving forward.

For more information, call Tom Anderson at 624-3391.