For The Tribune

The tennis courts at Seymour High School were once again filled up this week, but the players weren’t strictly from the high school.

Maggie Newkirk said she enjoyed playing for Seymour Middle School so much this spring that she decided to attend the Seymour Owls tennis camp this week.

“When I started playing tennis, I thought it was really fun to play,” she said. “I just liked it from the beginning.”

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Newkirk said she played both singles and doubles in the spring.

“I think I like doubles, but it’s kind of close,” she said. “I came to camp mostly so I could get more practice so I could be better in the spring. I’m pretty good at serving. I would like to improve on my backhand. I like the teamwork of tennis, just the sport in general.”

Jennifer Miller, co-coach of the girls varsity tennis team at the high school, headed the camp with fellow coach Nathan Otte.

“With the younger kids, we’re really just focusing on hand-eye coordination,” Miller said. “We started with volleys on the first day and just basic serve tosses. Our goal by the end of the week is to really work on foot position, swinging motion and really hit volleys, forehands and serves and play a lot of games.

“With the older kids, we’re really going to target volleys, and by the end of the week, maybe different types of volleys, not just a forehand or a backhand. We’re also going to work on ground strokes, getting good form for ground strokes, forehand and backhand and really focus on developing serving skills.”

There are two age groups, kindergarten through fourth grade and fifth through eighth grade, with a total of 22 boys and girls attending the camp.

One the campers in the younger group was Olivia Hendrix.

Hendrix said this was her first year attending the tennis camp.

“I wanted to try something new besides cheer,” she said. “I’m really into tennis because my neighbors play it. We’re learning volleys. I want to make new friends. I play and have fun.”

The younger campers hit lightweight foam tennis balls.

“They are easier for them to control, and they’re easier for them to hit,” Miller said. “They are a little bit larger target. We also use multi-colored balls. They are really good for the kids to see that they are generating top spin when they’re hitting the ball.”

Another teaching tool was placing large hoops on the court and the campers tried to serve into them.

At the camp, the kids learned to hit an assortment of different shots.

“When they get into grade 5 and 6, they start to develop a backhand, but that is the last thing we would focus on,” Miller said. “Some of the girls, particularly who played middle school tennis this past year, have a good foundation for their serves. We can work with them on a little higher level skills.”

Miller said that the camp allows for some kids to experience the sport for the first time and get acclimated to fundamentals.

“It really is to just build interest in the sport in general,” she said. “We have a lot of older students who are interested in grades 7 and 8. That elementary mindset just isn’t there yet. We want to get the interest out there and get the kids out on the court. It is a lifelong sport, and anybody can pick up a racket and play. They just need somebody to play against.”

“We hope (the success of the high school girls) will continue to generate interest, especially with our incoming sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to build on that. We had a really large group of girls in grades 7 and 8 play tennis this spring.”

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.