Practicing the ‘passing the worm drill’ are Lacey Powell, left, first grade; Allison Shadle, kindergarten; Justice George, second grade; Lucy Murra, second grade, and Lucas Dake, second grade.
The Blade/Jetta Fraser
Dressed in a bright-pink workout jacket, Highland Elementary School teacher Michele Henson runs back and forth in the school’s gym, instructing students in coordination techniques that will prepare them to play tennis.
Clapping her hands and bursting with energy, she directs several drills with students during a time most people are still at home drinking coffee and enjoying breakfast.
This year, Ms. Henson has worked to promote a before-school tennis program at the Sylvania school and has enlisted the help several other area coaches. The program runs on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and aims to introduce elementary-age students to the sport.
The Northwest Ohio Tennis Association, a local branch of the U.S. Tennis Association, is involved in the instruction.
Amy Beaverson, district league coordinator for the Northwest Ohio group, said classes were progressing well for the second week.
“We just want to instill some fun in tennis,” she said, adding that it’s something different to “just bring tennis in the mornings to the kids. It’s really hard to get gym time.”
Having ample gym space is important, because of the large turnout of students: 150 students signed up to participate.
Mark Faber, director of tennis at Toledo’s Laurel Hill Swim and Tennis, said in an email that “the interest it has received is amazing.”
Ms. Beaverson said all the training equipment is tailored to children.
Foam balls are used and both nets and rackets are smaller in size, “to make it successful right away,” she said.
The program starts with fundamentals, teaching students balance, coordination, strength, and agility by using alternating activity stations.
Students are learning racket control and appropriate footwork.
Fourth-grade teacher Adrienne Pilewski, who was helping instruct the camp, said working with the older elementary students allows for a little more stability with racket control.
“The other day was fun,” she said, as she commented about watching kindergartners and first-grade students practice, with the foam balls flying everywhere.
At the end of the session, Ms. Henson asked all the coaches to applaud the students.
After thanking them for their hard work, she launched back into being an instructor who wants her students to walk away learning more than what they walked in with.
“It’s your body movement that is going to put some pace on that ball,” Ms. Henson said, letting students know that the following week, the focus would be on forehand and backhand techniques.
“What a great opportunity for kids,” Ms. Henson said, as the youngsters headed off to classes.