You may have vivid memories of the first time you played in a tennis tournament. How excited you were to play? How nervous you were to remember everything your coach taught you? The sound of crowd cheering you on? For many this is an enduring moment in their life as a tennis player, a life fueled by a love for the game. Over 20 kids from the Lila Lee Boys and Girls Club made their own memories this past March when they played their first Rogers Rookie Tour.
Edmonton Junior Tennis Society (EJTS) has partnered with Lila Lee Boys and Girls Club to bring beginner tennis to kids, ages 7-14. New tennis players learn the game in a six-eight week session that ends in a Rogers Rookie Tour tournament. The event gives the young players tournament experience and is the closing event for the session. In addition, they receive a welcome package that comprises of a sweatshirt or a backpack.
“The experience was very positive. Kids showed a lot of interest in the game and were very excited and curious to try it. They were introduced to the basics of tennis and got an opportunity to practice. Despite it being a short program of just a few weeks, some of them showed good skills and understanding of the game,” says EJTS Coach Dragan Radovic. “It was a pleasure being among those kids and introduce them to this sport. I hope it made an impact on their lives. Above all, showing them an example of active living as part of a balanced life.”
Staff from the Lila Lee Boys and Girls Club were inspired by the program and are working to set up their own tennis league. EJTS has provided equipment to the Boys and Girls Club to help them grow their program. EJTS has also expanded their relationship with the Boys and Girls Club of Canada to offer programming at a second location – the Africa Centre – starting the week of April 8th.
“The kids enjoyed this program and looked forward to it every week. This was something that was exciting and new to them. I would highly recommended this program to other Boys and Girls Clubs of Edmonton because the children have so much fun playing,” says Staff at Lila Lee.
To help support the Boys and Girls Club, EJTS is hosting a Tennis Gear Drive until May 31, 2019. If you have any gently used children’s athletic clothing, tennis racquets or running shoes, you can drop them off at the EJTS/Tennis Alberta office on the second floor of the Percy Page Centre (11759 Groat Rd) Monday-Friday between 9:00am and 4:00pm.
Rogers Rookie Tour events, supported by Tennis Canada, take place across the province at various clubs. It is a national program designed to offer players a positive, fun, entry-level competition. Last year over 5,000 boys and girls across the country competed in over 300 events.
(Photos: Don Voaklander)