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Tennis interest grows in Suffolk

Olivia Hodouto, 10, and Erica Walker, 13, participate in a recent tennis lesson offered by Suffolk Parks and Recreation.

Olivia Hodouto, 10, and Erica Walker, 13, participate in a recent tennis lesson offered by Suffolk Parks and Recreation.

By Henry Luzzatto

Correspondent

While tennis legends face off at Wimbledon, a program in Suffolk is teaching students who hope one day to be the next Roger Federer or Serena Williams.

Suffolk Parks and Recreation is offering tennis lessons for all ages this summer.

Lessons are available for beginning children, intermediate players and adults. The lessons take place at the Howard Mast Tennis Complex.

Janice Henderson, who instructs the classes, said tennis is an ideal way for people of all ages to stay active.

“You can play from age 3 to 99,” she said.

The classes will offer instruction for all age groups, she said.

The first class is for beginners aged 5-12. Henderson said these lessons teach beginning strokes and the basics of tennis.

Parks and Recreation also offers youth intermediate classes for players aged 10-17.

“We teach everything from strategic match playing, scoring, specialty shots and doubles play,” she said. The intermediate classes are meant for young players who have had lessons before, or for high school athletes looking to stay sharp.

The city also offers classes for adults, whether they are beginners or more experienced players looking to improve. There is also a cardio tennis class, for a higher-intensity workout.

Henderson said the tennis lessons are in line with the city’s plan to increase physical fitness.

“You get cardio from tennis,” she said. “It’s strengthening. It works 360 degrees for the body,”

Parks and Recreation offers tennis lessons at various times throughout the year. Henderson said summer is by far the busiest time for lessons.

Plus, July is national Parks and Recreation month, she said. “What better time to promote our tennis program?”

She said she already has more participants this summer than she has in years past. The sessions beginning July 5 already have filled up, though there are slots open for the lessons beginning in August.

Henderson said one contributing factor is the low price of the lessons — $20 for a four-lesson course for beginners and intermediates, and $23 for adults.

“You can’t beat that anywhere,” she said.

The lessons run in the evening from Monday to Thursday. On Friday, the tennis courts are open to the public for free rally nights starting at 6 p.m. These nights allow people from all over to practice their skills and play matches against their fellow students.

“It doesn’t make sense to practice without a chance to play,” Henderson said. “That’s why we have those opportunities.”

The Howard Mast Tennis Complex has hosted lessons since Henderson started working for Parks and Recreation in 2005. Henderson said getting the word out had always been an issue, but the city’s promotion had increased participation this year.

“People would say to me ‘I didn’t even know we had tennis here,’” she said, “but this year we’ve had even more people sign up for lessons than usual.”