Tennis for Kids is a province of Ontario non-profit that looks to introduce kids to the game of tennis with an emphasis on skill development, sportsmanship and teamwork.
The program is returning for its second full year after the COVID pandemic caused it to shut down, and has limited spots available for their upcoming session beginning this Saturday, Feb. 10.
“Back six years ago,” says founder and director Brian Clarke, “myself and the late Justin Bourassa started this program by going to individual elementary schools to see if there was an interest.”
Clarke says the initial startup funding came from the Seaway Kiwanis along with ongoing funding from the Point Edward Optimists and Royal Canadian Legion.
“One of the best things that happened was, we got a grant from the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program,” Clarke told the Sarnia Journal.
“Because of that grant, we have the best combination of teaching aids for children.”
Tennis For Kids utilizes the “Progressive System” also known as “Mini Tennis,” matching the size of the court, height of the net, racket length and balls to the age of the child. All tennis equipment is provided — a child just needs running shoes.
“We have three elements to this” says Clarke.
The first is the 12-week program itself, which runs from mid-January to April at St. Matthews Elementary School every Saturday morning. The program also visits the elementary schools in the county, bringing their equipment and instructors during regular gym classes.
The third element, says Clarke, includes one-day events, such as Canada Day at Canatara Park.
The program offers courts suitable for 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12-year-olds. So, as the kids progress through the program, the court, racquet and ball, as well as the height of the net increase in size.
Clarke says the program uses all local instructors from the high school tennis teams; Clarke himself is a tennis coach at Northern.
Three of the eight instructors, Clarke says, are Tennis for Kids students who have gone through the program and come full-circle now as they give back as role models for kids.
The 12-week program is built to prepare kids, come the nice weather, to take advantage of the game outside of Tennis for Kids, at either the Sarnia Tennis Club, the Sarnia Riding Club or the City of Sarnia Recreation Department, which all run tennis programs.
“Regardless of those three options, you’re going to run into Tennis for Kids instructors at any of these programs,” says Clarke, explaining that kids who go through the program will have familiarity with instructors.
Clarke says registration is currently at 85% capacity; session two starting this Saturday has eight spots left, and the third session which begins after March Break has 15 spots available.
The cost is $30 per session.
“We provide all the equipment, racquets, the balls, and all the kids need are shoes and a drink,” Clarke says.
He adds that financial assistance is available if needed, so if someone had multiple children, and the fee was a challenge, Clarke says it is all anonymous and help can be provided.
“This program, the first year we had 24 kids. If these final spots fill up in the next week or so, we will have filled 140 spots, so it has been very successful.”
“This is a game you can play your entire life,” Clarke adds “It’s a game of manners and sportsmanship.”
Session two begins this Saturday at St Matthews School, for registration and more information, visit https://t4ksarnia.com/.