Academy Prep students receive shot to play sport
By NANCY MORGAN
© St. Petersburg Times,
A core of volunteers, organized by Darlene Grayson, worked with Doug Woods, the teaching professional at St. Petersburg Tennis Center, and Jeff Davis, USTA Florida Section Community Coordinator, to introduce the basics of USA Team Tennis.
"As a member of the school's advisory council, this is my third year to plan a tennis activity," Grayson said. "As a council, we're always trying to offer opportunities for different experiences.
"Teaming up with the USTA and the Florida Section this year has worked out so well," she said. "With partners like that, I'm ready to continue each year."
The USA program included 12 hours of instruction, practice and play. Six days of two-hour activities over the last two weeks provided the participants plenty of opportunity to begin learning the game. "For most everyone here, this is their first experience with tennis," said Gillian Barnes, a third-year Academy Prep teacher. "Some have been in Doug's after-school clinics, but for most, this is their first exposure. They're thrilled and excited to be here."
Over 20 volunteers assisted as the students were put through their paces on the center's soft courts.
Diane Gabay, Jackie Keller, Carol Whaley, Robyn Bowman, Helen Avers, Ann Worthington, Jan Stone and Kathy Murray were among the women. They were joined by Jeff Julien, Tony Skinner, Randy Dudley, Tom Grayson, Sal Campanaro, Mark Mazo, Ed Jagger, Jeff Winkler, Tony Ruggerio, Randy Meisner and Mike Reilly.
Kelly Nelson, Jeff Chambers, Tom Grayson, Woods and Davis spoke to the group about how tennis is a part of their life.
"I talked about how tennis had helped me make friends, provided opportunities to travel and to meet people from different backgrounds," said Nelson, the Times Player of the Year. "They seemed to have a good time, and some had a lot of talent."
Sam Williams, Academy Prep's headmaster, was pleased with the response of the students and is interested in offering a training and developing program for fifth- and sixth-graders.
"I could easily see that at the end of the six sessions. There was quite a smile on all their faces," Williams said. "You could see they enjoyed the program. We're always looking for ways to enrich the students' overall experiences, and tennis is one of many avenues we entertain."
Sage Scott, 10, who mostly plays basketball and football, was among the students who tried tennis for the first time.
"It was fun," Scott said. "I live close enough to these courts that I think I'll keep playing now that I got started."
ADULT LEAGUE: In last weekend's rain-interrupted USA League Adult West Regional Championships in Longboat Key, three area teams earned trips to the state tournament, Aug. 10-12 in Altamonte Springs. State winners will advance to the national championships in the fall.
Local winners were East Lake Woodlands in the women's 3.0 division and the Safety Harbor Spa's 4.5 and 5.0 men's squads.
Seminole Lake Tennis Center's 4.0 men tied for first with Tampa but was edged out in a tie-breaker. Deadlocked with Tampa with a 3-1 overall record and in matches won (9), Seminole lost 22 sets to Tampa's 19.
The Vinoy finished second in men's 3.5 to the same Fort Myers-based team as last year. Feather Sound's 3.0 women were in a three-way tie for first after the second day of competition, but fell to Van Dyke Farms for a 2-2 mark.
In other divisions, a Tampa-based women's squad won the 2.5, Naples took the women's 4.0 and men's 3.0 and Sarasota won the women's 4.5.
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