Oftentimes, kids who attend our programs don’t have access to a variety of sports. In 2016, thanks to a grant from Tennis Canada, we were able to offer a Kids Tennis League to 70 kids at our McCauley and Tweddle Clubs.
The Tennis League Support Program is designed for kids who are older than six. It focuses on learning tennis through play rather than the traditional lesson-based model so kids can get better simply by playing. Plus Tennis Canada provided a training session for our staff so they understood the best way to run the program to give our kids the most positive experience possible.
At our McCauley Club, we offered an all-girls program during the summer. Ian Amundson, the McCauley Club Coordinator, says they had ten girls who participated every Wednesday for an hour.
“We had them practicing their skills, and we’d end every day with a game,” Ian shares. “At the beginning of the program, none of them were able to rally but by end they all could! We considered that tremendous progress.”
Ian’s favorite part of the program was how it gave the girls an opportunity to hang out in a small group. “They had a unique sense of belonging to the group, because it was just theirs.” During the summer our McCauley Club sees around 70 kids a day, so small groups aren’t usually possible.
Especially in the McCauley community, tennis is not considered an assessable sport. There aren’t any courts nearby, and the majority of the families in the neighborhood live below the poverty line.
Tennis is slightly more accessible at our Tweddle Club. There is a court in the community that the Club has been known to take advantage of. Because the kids at Tweddle had more experience with tennis, there was greater buy in to participate in the program. They had 30 kids would consistently join in.
Brittney Hislop, Tweddle’s Club Coordinator, shared one moving success story with us.
Sarah is a 13 years old who struggles with anxiety. She would come watch her sister participate in the program but she would refuse to try it out herself. After a few weeks of watching the other kids have fun, Sarah eventually grabbed a tennis racquet and a ball and tried to play by herself.
One of the Club’s volunteers noticed her and went over to see if she could join in. They started passing the ball back and forth.
According to Brittney, this was an incredible step for Sarah because playing tennis was very out of her comfort zone. For the rest of the program, she would participate in her own way, with the volunteer helping her learn at her own pace.
Not only did the tennis program help Sarah learn a new skill, but it’s also boosted her self-confidence!
Because Tennis Canada provides all the equipment necessary – modified tennis balls, racquets, nets and courts – we have been able to share the sport of tennis with our other Clubs across Edmonton.
“The value is in trying something you’ve never tried before,” Ian explains. “That’s especially true with physical activity and fundamental movement. Every kid who played got to experience a different type of movement. Even if they didn’t love the sport itself, it helped improve their fine motor skills and they got the opportunity to belong to something that was just for them.”
Thanks Tennis Canada for making this unique experience possible for our kids!