Looking for a sport for your kid for this fall which is active, challenging, fun, offers flexible schedules, and is moderately priced? Think tennis. Tennis is making a big comeback with particpation rising by almost 50% the last decade. We interviewed Mark Schlossenberg from Georgetown Prep Tennis Club (Rockville) about new ways that tennis is taught to juniors and other topics of interest.
Can you provide an overview of the Georgetown Prep Tennis Club? What is the relationship to Georgetown Prep?
The Georgetown Prep Tennis Club is a commercially owned tennis facility on the grounds of the Georgetown Preparatory School and is entering it’s 20th year. The founders of the facility are husband and wife, John and Sue Adams, who are dedicated to promoting the game of tennis as a family sport for a lifetime. The facility is open to the public and has 12 courts; six meticulously maintained clay courts and six US. Open-surfaced hard courts. During the winter mont hs, the six clay courts are cover ed with a climate controlled air structure and we offer junior a nd adult programming year round.
Can you talk about introducing tennis to players of different ag es? For example, what’s the best age to start? Do you have any older kids (e.g., 15-16 year olds) just beginning with tennis?
The sport of tennis is going through many terrific changes as we head into the New Year geared towards the beginning junior player. The “Quick Start” or “10 & Under Tennis”, playing format which is established by the USTA (United States Tennis Association) is geared to the younger player aged 4-10. You wi ll start to see the younger players using smaller nets, smaller courts and a variety of foam and low compression balls until they begin play in 12 & Under Tennis Tournaments. This is an actual rule change starting in January 2012, and rule changes in tennis do not happen often! This is something we strongly believe in here at the George to wn Prep Tennis Club as a real positive for the sport as it increases the likelihood that kids will have fun, return to the sport and continue to play and improve.
We do have older children picking up the sport, and interestingly enough, as soon as one child signs up they will often have friends who call up and want to get involved the following week. Another program, while not geared towards children, is our adult beginner class. We had so many requests from parents who had not played but wanted to learn so they could play with their children. We started an “Adult Beginner” class last year and it is one of our most subscribed classes.
What approach does GPTC take towards introducing tennis to kids?
At Georgetown Prep we provide a program for those ages 4-6 which we call “Wimpleton.” The popular class meets for 45 minutes a week and is specifically designed for the beginning tennis player which is both fun and active and focuses on motor skill development. Again, we use the smaller nets, foam balls and it promotes a lot of success and confidence. You wouldn’t ask a 4-year old starting baseball to hit a home run with a wooden bat and real baseball, over a fence 325 feet away. Why would you ask a 4-year old to do the same thing on a tennis court that a pr ofessional do es?
What are some program and lesson options for kids interested in playing tennis this fall?
Here at the Georgetown Prep Tennis Club, we have a variety of programs for all ages and skill levels with programs both afterschool and on weekends. From October through May, we have 6 Har-Tru (American clay) courts that are covered with a climate controlled air structure and beautiful stone observation deck. We offer programs for the youngest beginning player all the way up to the high-school team and competitive tournament player.
What are the characteristics of a kid that would be a good fit for tennis?
I don’t like to typecast a specific characteristic, as I have seen time and time again, a child who comes out the first time and appears to have very little coordination but likes tennis. Tennis like anything else is a sport of repetition. The fact that the child likes the sport, which is foremost, and becomes committed to working on the sport is really paramount. I still think back to a child I saw come out and basically swing the wrong way in week one years ago. That same child is now playing tournaments and is quite an accomplished player today. That would be the same child I would never have thought in week one, would be the child who makes the most progress.
Tennis is also nice because a parent can practice eye hand coordination games at home that we teach the kids and parents. You see rapid improvement and also more time spent with the parent and child. Anyone can take any kind of lesson or clinic once a week but if you never practice in addition, it will be a lot harder to get better.
What athletic skills will a kid develop through this sport?
Confidence, concentration, cooperation, discipline, eye-hand coordination, and improved footwork are just a few of the characteristics we see in the children after starting tennis.
Why should parents encourage their kids to play tennis?
Tennis is a one of the few sports that you can play for a lifetime. We have had students as young as 3 years old and senior players aged 90+ come out and play. Tennis is a great way to make new friends, develop great life-skills which carry over to school and other activities. Most important to us here at the Georgetown Prep Tennis Club is fun and learning. Especially with the young players, it has to be fun and something to look forward to coming to.
What are the most common types of injuries?
Most of the injuries we see are minor and overuse injuries we see in our middle-aged “Weekend Warrior” players who have perhaps not picked up the racket in a while and go out full steam. Another advantage at the Georgetown Prep tennis Club is the clay courts. The surface is a lot easier on your joints and is the preferred surface of players especially as they get older.
Can you talk about the equipment needs for young players to play tennis?
Actually for the beginning player, the cost of equipment has gone down considerably. With the ‘Quick Start” program they have rackets specifically sized for the young player that come pre-strung, with covers all for under $25.00.
What are the approximate costs per year for this sport?
A lot of the cost depends on the level and aspirations of the child. For a young child getting started, the costs can be very minimal. As a child advances in level and plays tournaments, there are entry fees, travel expenses, etc.
What else should kids and parents know about this sport?
I think the thing that often gets forgotten is that tennis is truly a family sport for a lifetime. In a day when kids are so involved in sedentary activities and physical education is being cut, tennis is a great way for a parent and child to bond. We take great pride here in seeing parents and children going out to hit together and over the years continuing to see them do so.
Where can parents get further information about GPTC programs?
They can check out our website at www.georgetownpreptennis.com or feel free to give us a call at 301-816-9713