The squeak of sneakers on pavement and the solid thunk of low compression tennis balls sounded across Magnolia Park Friday, Aug. 3 as the Rohnert Park Tennis Club (RPTC) hosted its first ever youth camp.
The program went by the name of HITS, Honest, integrity, teamwork and sportsmanship. It was equal parts summer camp, youth program and tennis academy all wrapped up into a six-day clinic. The purpose? To familiarize the kids of Rohnert Park to the sport of tennis.
“The first reason for the camp was to introduce the game to people that don’t have much money and see how many of them love tennis. That’s the first thing,” said Sharon Buot, the event’s coordinator. “The second thing was to make sure they were able to have physical education.”
Thanks to a scholarship from the United States Tennis Association, the RPTC launched the camp free of charge to the community. They provided equipment, coaching and snacks. That was a huge help to parents like Micha James whose son and daughter, both nine, were trying tennis for the first time.
“Can’t really beat free,” James said. “The only thing we had to bring was tennis shoes—well, tennis shoes and kids.”
The camp received 114 sign ups and averaged about 90 participants per day. That level of turn out came as a bit of a surprise to the RPTC. They predicted that the program would see at most 50 sign ups and even that was in question given that kids were preparing for the new school year.
The overwhelming response was a far cry from the junior tournament the RPTC held back in May of this year. Despite hosting, the tournament saw no representation from Sonoma County. That served as a large impetus for the HITS summer camp.
“Our goal is to field a team in the junior championship next year,” said Richard Hutchison, president of the RPTC. “To have a competitive team you also need a farm team. You’ve got to have the kids coming up all the time.”
Of course the primary reason for the camp was to attract kids to the sport, but its effect rippled far beyond the children to the 19 volunteers that coached the program. For many, it was their first experience teaching.
“I don’t hang out with kids very often, so it was out of my comfort zone, but it’s something that I really enjoy,” said volunteer, Jennifer Adams. “I’ve developed a great rapport. I’ve connected with these cool, amazing kids that are here to play tennis. They all have this great attitude and it’s given me faith in humanity again.”
Faith in humanity was certainly something that Sharon Buot hoped to cultivate when she organized the program.
“By playing tennis I want to encourage them to be upstanding citizens in the community,” Buot said. “Who knows? Maybe they’ll be the next Serena Williams or Roger Federer.”
The HITS program continues in September with another lineup of classes at Magnolia Park. Those interested should contact Rohnert Park’s Recreation Department for more information.