© St. Petersburg Times, published March 20, 2002
Scooby Doo and some of his cartoon friends visited St. Petersburg's Sexton Elementary School on Monday.
The school participated in Cartoon Network SMASH Tennis, an interactive traveling tour event sponsored by the ATP men's professional tour, Tennis Industry Association, U.S. Tennis Association and Cartoon Network.
The visit was the first of six planned in Florida among a total of 21 nationwide. The goal is to provide an entertaining glimpse at tennis through a variety of games.
Sexton principal Patricia Davey dressed in a costume as Scooby Doo and was joined by assistant principal Sandy Kemp (Judy Jetson) and Laura Woods (George Jetson).
"I've long been a fan of Scooby Doo, so this gave me an opportunity to play the role and play with the kids," Davey said. "It's really exciting to be able to add tennis to our curriculum.
"Our physical education teacher, Phyllis Sava, works very hard to find recreational activities for the kids to enjoy," Davey said. "As with most schools, money is our biggest issue. With this opportunity, though, there's little output from us from the financial side."
Sexton was selected for the visit on the recommendation of Florida's USA Community Coordinator, Jeff Davis.
"I could see the desire and motivation was there to offer this type of opportunity," Davis said. "I was looking for the enthusiasm in trying something new, a large venue, and Sexton Elementary is one of our largest schools with almost 1,000 students and the logistics at the school could house the Cartoon Network setup.
"What we in the Florida association want to provide is the complete package of the tennis component that includes tennis instruction along with the opportunity for follow-up activities, like a club at the school. What's really good for the schools is that there's incentive money available for this."
In preparation for the visit, Sexton joined the USTA (and will receive 30 racquets), organized about 50 parent-volunteers to assist in the event and utilized physical education periods to introduce Scooby Doo and his friends to students.
"We're going to offer the tennis unit as soon as we get back from spring break," Sava said. "Today was perfect timing for us since we just finished testing. This is like a reward for the kids.
"With 125 students in each P.E. class, we'll divide into different stations and conduct the activities. We hope to promote tennis and provide additional opportunities for play if there's the interest."
First greeted by a 20-foot inflatable Scooby Doo, students visited four primary stations -- each one inflatable and in a fully enclosed area -- that provided playful opportunities for the students to try their hand at tennis. "We've done this tour seven years," said Kevin Weinhandl, tour manager for event company PGI and producer and operator of Cartoon Network SMASH Tennis. "To see the look in the kids' eyes when they see Scooby is my highlight. It's a great catch using the cartoon characters.
"Last year we saw about 300,000 kids, and this year our goal is 400,000," he said.
Fifth-grader Caprecia Morris participated in all the stations. "It was really fun," Morris said. "I've never really tried tennis before -- I usually play basketball -- but I'd like to try tennis now."
So would Brent Coomes. "Yes, this was fun," the fifth-grader said, "and I think I would like to try it again."
SOUTH PINELLAS LEAGUES: The Shipwatch Tennis Club B team, a first-time doubles league participant, finished first among eight squads in the 3.0-3.5 division. Nancy Stein and captain Margaret Oliver, along with Gaile Kimple and Candy Copp, earned 17 points in nine weeks of competition. The Shipwatch C team was second. GOOD LIFE GAMES: Dennis McDaniel survived a first-set loss to win the 65-69 division, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
Other singles winners were Ruth Felmeth (60-69), Helen Pugh (70-74), Mildred Steckman (77-90), Rick Whissel (55-59), James Moszczynski (60-64), Richard Tasin (70-74), Bud Steckman (75-79), Ted Heisler (80-84) and Roger Gentilhomme (85-90).
Doubles champions included Diane Galemmo and Maureen Sternberg (60-64), Phyllis Gary and Joan Holland (65-69), Charlotte Whitley and Joyce Shumate (70-74), Harry Church and Heisler (80-84), Lou DeBee and John Cronin (75-79) and Bud Lytle and Dick Durstein (70-74).