Youth have ball at tennis clinic

Kansas University's Anna Jackson, right, works with 9-year-old Cheshire Fletcher at a youth tennis clinic. About 20 youngsters turned out for the event Saturday at the Robinson courts.

Amy Hall-Holt was back at the Robinson courts again Saturday.

Hall-Holt, Kansas University’s tennis coach, was giving advice and encouragement to players, but in a much lighter atmosphere than usual.

Hall-Holt was not stressing techniques. Instead, the coach and several members of the KU tennis team spent the morning as ambassadors of their sport to young members of the Lawrence community at a free tennis clinic.

Nearly 20 youngsters showed up for the clinic, mostly from walk-up registration. That number might sound low, but it afforded the participants plenty of time for one-on-one instruction.

It meant a lot to the children, such as Zena Keaton, a 10-year-old from Lawrence who had little prior experience on a tennis court.

“It’s actually been a lot of fun,” Keaton said midway through the clinic. “I’ve decided to stay here the whole time instead of calling my grandma and coming home.”

What’s the biggest thing she learned?

“It seems if you miss (the ball), it doesn’t matter because everyone’s a winner,” she said.

The event consisted largely of showing the children different developmental drills run by the Jayhawks.

“We’re just trying to have fun,” said KU freshman Lauren Hommell, who started playing tennis at the age of 12, “not getting any technical stuff down, just getting them interested in the game.”

Teresa Hupfauf, Lawrence, watched as her 11-year-old daughter, Tiana, took part in developmental drill.

“I’ve kind of been self-taught. That’s why I want my daughter to be better than me,” Teresa joked. “I like that the kids can learn the right way when they’re young. … I think tennis is a lifelong sport, and that’s a great thing about it.”

Tiana, like Keaton, never really played the game before, but said she “learned a lot because (the KU players and coaches) taught me how to do it directly, and they walked me through it.”

The clinic was sponsored by Sunflower Broadband and The Tennis Channel. Sunflower Broadband is owned by The World Company, which also owns the Journal-World.”It’s what were about. We’re about promoting the sport,” said Jaime Pena, account manager of the Rocky Mountain region for The Tennis Channel.

Pena’s company, which celebrates its second anniversary today, approached Sunflower Broadband and the Kansas tennis team about the idea, and both parties jumped on the event. The Tennis Channel has run 10 other similar clinics around the country, including a recent event in New York City in which about 100 children showed at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, N.Y., site of the U.S. Open.

Hall-Holt was glad to lend a hand to a possible opportunity to publicize for sport and her team.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a little more of an audience at our matches,” Hall-Holt said. “It’s definitely a dual thing. It helps both sides. It helps us get involved with the youth and also helps get our name out there.”