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It’s a new game for young learners

Bethlehem’s tennis clinics upgraded through grant

Bethlehem youth tennis Instructor Dan Creamo teaches a beginner class filled with students in grades from kindergarten to second grade.

Bethlehem youth tennis Instructor Dan Creamo teaches a beginner class filled with students in grades from kindergarten to second grade. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— The funds also allowed one of the tennis courts to be relined, turning it into two smaller courts for “a greater success rate success rate when playing the game.”

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Students try their best to hit the ball over the next using new, lighter equipment purchased through the grant.

Jason Gallo, the Parks and Recreation Department’s assistant administrator, said more funds are available for the town as the tennis clinics grow, so more equipment could be purchased and more clinics could be held. A registration fee is still required for all participants.

Through the grant, the town and all children participating in the clinics also receive a one-year USTA membership. This allows parents to purchase equipment for their children at a discount, obtain free access to training materials and receive a magazine either quarterly or monthly.

“Tennis is a sport that can be played throughout your lifetime,” said Gallo. “Some sports get harder to keep up with as one ages, but once someone learns to play tennis and they develop a love for the game, it can be carried on into your senior years and play forever.”

Weatherly Webb said her 7-year-old daughter, Chloe, enjoys the clinic more with the instituted changes. This is Chloe’s second year participating in the clinic and Webb said she thinks the children are more confident during lessons because know they can actually hit the ball to each other over the smaller nets.

“They make it fun for the kids, which is important,” she said.

Kristin Pung’s 4-year-old daughter, Addison, was participating in a tennis clinic for the first time. Pung said she was happy with the program changes, because they conform to USTA standards for young learners. She also liked the new equipment.

“It’s like kids learning to play softball with a wiffle ball bat,” she said. “It makes a difference and helps them learn hand-eye coordination so they aren’t as afraid of the ball in later years. It also gives the younger ones a fighting chance with the children who have participated in the program for a few years more.”

Cremo said the program’s new style of teaching the game depends less on competition and more on having fun, so most children are learning the skills they’ll need in the future without realizing it.

“That’s what makes this special,” he said.

Clinics are two weeks long and run until Aug. 3. Spaces are still available. To learn more, visit the Parks and Recreation website at www.townofbethlehem.org.

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