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Y-sponsored tennis clinic at Fairgrounds teaches youths balance, agility

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WATERTOWN — Energetic youngsters went from bouncing around the gymnasium at the Fairgrounds Y on Saturday morning to bouncing, serving and rallying tennis balls as they learned the discipline of the sport.

A few dozen children ages 5 to 10 participated in the first of its kind tennis clinic, sponsored by the Y, 585 Rand Drive, along with partners North Country Tennis Association and the U.S. Tennis Association.

“We’re trying to develop some athletic skills” for participants, said James W. Newell, a member of the local tennis association who helped the children with posture. “We want them to have the movement; we want them to be able to move to the ball and have that balance.”

As four 5- and 6-year-old children raised their arms and scooted in a straight line, Mr. Newell’s wife, Patricia, encouraged them to keep moving.

“These guys are naturals,” she said. “The idea is to keep your back straight.”

Larry Dillon, manager of the 10 and Under Tennis program for the Eastern region of the U.S. Tennis Association, said stations were set up so children could learn about balance, posture, agility and coordination — all skills needed to play tennis.

“Our two goals are to get more kids to play, and play at a higher level,” he said. “I just hope they have fun and feel successful, and they feel tennis is something they want to try.”

Jessica L. Dulmage, Watertown, said she signed her daughter, Elaina M., 6, up for the clinic because Elaina is unsure which physical activity she likes best.

“She seems to be having fun,” Mrs. Dulmage said as she observed her daughter practicing techniques with a partner. “She liked that this was a tryout thing. She could use some discipline, and I like that it’s not necessarily a team sport, so it teaches her focus.”

A 7-year-old boy was able to bounce a tennis ball and catch it with his racket 10 times in a row, while a 6-year-old girl learned how to serve the tennis ball without sending it across the room.

“This is awesome!” one girl shouted, before rotating stations.

While teaching young children tennis as another athletic option locally, Mr. Newell said, a group he is working with has remained dedicated to raising funds and advocating for the location and construction of indoor tennis courts in the city.

“We think it’s important with the climate we live in to have something indoors,” he said.

Parents who missed Saturday’s tennis clinic will have an opportunity this summer to have their children learn about tennis. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department will host tennis clinics for children ages 7 to 10 throughout July on the tennis courts in Thompson Park. Registration opens June 2.

For more information, call 785-7775, or visit www.watertown-ny.gov/rec.

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