Grassroots Game: Game for All Ages
A Massachusetts high school team spreads tennis’s message to the community.
By Carol Feingold
As a lifelong sport with incredible benefits, tennis can be enjoyed by everyone, from preschoolers to seniors well past retirement age. In Amesbury, Mass., the members of the Amesbury High School Girls’ Tennis Team not only are well on their way to mastering the game, but they are teaching elementary school kids to enjoy it, too. They even hold a “Summer Moms Tennis Institute” open to all adults, male and female.
Founded in the mid-1980s, the AHS girls’ team finished the 2013 season with team record wins. But most importantly, says Coach Brett Manoloff, the team won the Sportsmanship Award for the third year in a row. “That, to me, is a big deal,” he says. “It says these girls are top notch. They act professionally and their etiquette is excellent. It’s a great reflection on the kids in the program and how they conduct themselves.”
Manoloff runs a no-cut tennis team. “Even if you’ve never picked up a racquet in your life, as long as you have the appropriate conduct and attitude, you’re on the team,” he says. “There are minimum academic requirements for all students to play sports and we keep an eye on our kids to make sure their grades are where they should be. They truly are student-athletes. They have a lot to do and they’re impressive.”
Members of the AHS girls’ team run an after-school tennis program for students in grades 3 and 4 based on the USTA’s 10 and Under Tennis program. “We started it last year, and it’s been quite successful,” Manoloff says. “We had two classes with 15 kids that now at least know what tennis is and hopefully will continue to enjoy it. We plan to do it again and as demand increases we may expand the age range.”
The after-school tennis program is a fundraiser for the team. The money parents pay for their children to attend the program goes to the AHS Boosters Association and then directly to the girls’ tennis team to pay for supplies and equipment.
“The big thing is to increase opportunities for the kids,” Manoloff notes. “Maybe they’ll love tennis and maybe not, but tennis is a lifelong sport. If some of these 9-year-olds enjoy it, regardless of whether or not they play for AHS, hopefully they’ll play it for the rest of their lives, and that’s healthy.”
“It was great to see how much of an interest such young kids had developed after just a few fun tennis lessons,” says AHS senior Meghan Chines. “Not only was it a successful fundraiser for our team, it was a fun way to get involved with our community.”
The Summer Moms Tennis Institute is another fundraiser for the team. “It started two years ago because the moms of the AHS kids wanted to learn tennis,” Manoloff says. “I said, ‘I’ll coach you and teach you,’ and at the end of the summer the moms donated money to the after-school program. It’s called ‘Summer Moms,’ but it’s open to all adults, male or female, who would like to play friendly tennis in the summer.”
“I’ve seen people of all ages with only basic skills enjoying the game just as much as any experienced player,” says AHS senior Olivia King. “This is what the After School Enrichment program and the Summer Moms Tennis Institute are all about. Both have been extremely successful in spreading the love of tennis to children and adults.”
“By teaching kids as well as adults how to play and enjoy tennis, we are also building our own knowledge on how to improve our skills,” adds AHS senior Melina Mavroforos. “I’m so glad I joined the tennis team. If I hadn’t, I would have missed out on making new friends, connecting with other players in the community, and having fun with the sport.”