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Novices, pros learn from 'Coach Youth Tennis' workshop

By Jonathon Braden | braden@sctennis.com

LEXINGTON, S.C. – Tennis novices and pros came from all over South Carolina on Saturday to learn how to turn children into lifelong tennis players.

About 25 parents and coaches attended the “Coach Youth Tennis” workshop, held at the Lexington County Tennis Complex. The 3 1/2-hour session was part of a national initiative launched last month by four organizations, including the USTA. The program, which consists of six online courses and a workshop, was created to help parents, coaches and teachers ensure children have fun and want to keep playing tennis.

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How to make tennis fun for kids was a point brought up often at Saturday’s workshop, which was led by Jorge Andrew, a USTA national trainer and director of tennis operations for the Lexington Recreation and Aging Committee. The Lexington Area Tennis Association also helped organize the event.

Andrew, a former pro tour player, also stressed that parents and coaches make tennis safe and get children rallying with a ball as quickly as possible so they learn to enjoy the game.

He focused the workshop on a few areas, including how to help children become more agile and balanced on the court. And he shared specific games in each area as well. To help improve children's quickness, Andrew suggested the adult stand with both arms stretched out, and a ball in each hand. The student would stand across from the adult, and as soon as the adult dropped one of the balls, the student would try to catch the ball before its second bounce.

Andrew also challenged parents and coaches to think quickly while teaching. During the various drills on Saturday, he would ask the participants how they would make it easier if the child was struggling, or how they would make it harder if the child was bored.

Andrew leading the workshop was one of the reasons Elise Partin attended.

Partin, the mayor of Cayce, S.C., is trying to learn more about coaching and playing tennis because she volunteered to coach her 8-year-old daughter’s team at East Point Academy in Cayce.

“I knew it would be helpful,” she said of the workshop. “Jorge is phenomenal.”

She also was thankful for the wealth of resources the USTA has online to help parents learn about and teach tennis. “That’s something the USTA really excels at,” she said.

Partin said she didn’t have similar resources a couple months ago when she was trying to learn how to teach basketball to her son and his classmates. Instead, Partin was trying to remember her middle school basketball days decades ago.

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Other parents attended for similar reasons, including Frances and Marty Ettlemyer of Lexington.

The couple is new to tennis but would like to learn how to play to help their two children, Gary, 10, and Sophia, 7, learn as well.

“I just want to help them and do it the right way,” Frances Ettlemyer said.

It wasn’t just parents who learned something Saturday, though. Veteran tennis professionals gained some knowledge as well.

Louis Marino has been teaching tennis on Hilton Head Island for the past five years. Saturday’s workshop was the second one from Andrew that Marino has attended in the past four years.

Yet Marino still drove home Saturday with a new idea. And during a lesson three days after Saturday’s workshop, Marino was already incorporating the new idea into a private lesson.

At the workshop, Andrew had shown a drill in which kids pass a Koosh ball back and forth with their racquets to help develop touch. Marino, teaching a lesson Tuesday, noticed his student wasn’t keeping his wrist firm while hitting the ball.

So Marino and the student practiced passing a hacky sack – similar to a Koosh ball – back and forth with their racquets to help the student keep his wrist firm.

Marino also was reminded of a broader point Saturday.

“One of the most important things that I learned from Jorge and I learn from every one of these seminars,” Marino said, “is to be a goodwill ambassador and have a good attitude. That makes people want to gravitate toward what you’re doing.”

“Coach Youth Tennis” workshops are open to anyone interested in learning how to help kids love tennis. A full schedule of workshops can be found at www.coachyouthtennis.com.

“Coach Youth Tennis” was developed in partnership involving the Professional Tennis Registry, the U.S. Professional Tennis Association, the United States Olympic Committee and the USTA.

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