Even the remnant of Storm Elsa didn’t faze the attendance and high enthusiasm for the US Tennis Association’s new six-week tennis programs in East Sandwich and Buzzards Bay. Starting earlier this month, “Tennis in the Parks” is a collaboration between USTA and more than 40 New England towns to provide affordable, beginner-level tennis lessons to youth and adults, featuring local coaches.
“To begin with, the program sold out within days in both Bourne and Sandwich. We ended up with an immediate wait list,” said David Sugar, the coach for both local programs. “Spirit has been very high. Kids and adults are both coming early. They’re laughing and having a lot of fun.”
“We’ve worked on the basics of tennis, scoring, managing the tennis courts. From a skill standpoint, we focus on the basic flung, stroke, forehands, backhands, the very basics of volleying and serving, and then we get into the mechanics of how to really play a match,” said Mr. Sugar, noting that the first three weeks of the program focus on building skills while the final three weeks work on playing matches.
To promote and grow the sport of tennis, the USTA partnered with individual towns’ park and recreation departments to design entry-level tennis classes, all offered on public courts. Depending on the locations, lessons usually range from $50 to $80 for the entire program. In addition, all participants receive and keep an age-appropriate racket, ball and Net Generation T-shirt at their first lessons.
“What we’re trying to do is trying to get rackets in as many new players’ hands as possible, whether adults or youth. Our goal isn’t to make money. We are looking to try and grow the game of tennis, spreading it to as many people as possible because it is the sport of a lifetime and what we believe in,” James Maimonis, manager of media and communication for USTA New England, said.
The affordability of “Tennis in the Park” was due to USTA’s recent partnership with Wilson, the Chicago-based sporting goods company that donated hundreds of pieces of tennis equipment to support the new program.
Locally, the USTA pitched the idea to parks and rec in departments in Sandwich and Bourne, creating flyers for online and town publications, hiring the coaches and delivering all the equipment.
For the “Tennis in the Park” youth program, sessions typically run an hour long and are divided into three levels: Grades 1-2 (Red Ball), Grades 3-5 (Orange Ball) and Grades 6-8 (Green Ball). Depending on the age, the players receive tennis balls that are built differently in size and weight. The adult session, which is only available on Joint Base Cape Cod, begins shortly after the youth and lasts for an hour and a half.
“This is one of the best ways to get tennis to young people. USTA New England is doing whatever we can to make tennis more affordable. We want kids to tell their friends, get it into as many households as possible through word of mouth, spiral and take off from there. That’s what we’re hoping for out of this program, and we’ve heard so many great reviews,” Mr. Maimonis said.
“Tennis right now, nationally, is at almost an all-time high. People within the COVID era started playing tennis because it was socially distancing, and people can go out to outdoor recreation and nature. It’s an ideal sport for anyone at any age, individually or as a family,” Mr. Sugar said.
“We already had a couple of sessions that went through very inclement weather, including [tropical storm] Elsa,” he added, “When that storm came through the Cape, the Sandwich classes were still 80 percent full. It was certainly rainy and windy, but there was a lot of enthusiasm.”
The Sandwich program runs on Tuesdays at the Quaker Meeting House Road courts through August 10, and the Buzzards Bay program runs on Thursdays at the Coast Guard Tennis Courts through August 12.