By Ottawa Sportspage, For Tennis For Life Ottawa
What do basketballs, soccer nets, rope ladders and paintbrushes have in common?
If you answered “tennis camp”… then you must have cheated and read the headline to this article. Either that, or you’ve been to a camp operated by Tennis For Life Ottawa.
“It’s a tennis camp, but there’s a lot more to it,” signals founder Nick Patterson, who is well-recognized for his enthusiasm that spreads like wildfire – particularly with young players.
“Yes, of course they’re hitting balls quite a bit,” he explains, “But we also get them moving in all four directions. Lateral movement is huge in tennis, up and back too.
“We’re big on skipping, and ladder work. We’ll have all kinds of cones on the court, in a triangle – all kinds of footwork drills. And we’ll do relay races, which the kids absolutely love.”
There is plenty of time of time on the tennis court each day, but many other engaging sports as well, such as soccer net, basketball, swimming or the always-popular tennis-baseball.
“If you’re training for tennis the way I do it, you get quicker feet for other sports too,” notes Patterson, highlighting volleyball, basketball and football as examples. “Those same skillsets are very applicable.”
Tennis For Life camps also include unique activities like painting tennis photos with the help of a local painter.
“It’s really fun,” underlines Patterson, an instructor of 35+ years locally who also offers lessons in a variety of formats at many clubs across the city outside of the camps. “The kids are always excited and they always have lots of energy. You can tell when they’re signing up for the next camp or the next season that you’re doing something right and that they’re having a good time.”
Tennis camp of course does include a lot of tennis too. Under the watch of quality instructors certified by Tennis Canada, participants work on their skills throughout the week, building towards an end-of-week tournament on Friday.
The players receive a report card at the end of the week, graded on items such as racquet contact point, serve, the 6 core strokes (forehand and backhand groundstrokes, forehand and backhand volleys, lob and drop shots) and court movement.
There are also teacher comments so players know what they can continue to work on in the future.
“The parents often really like getting the feedback in particular,” Patterson indicates. “It’s fun first and foremost, but they also want to see that they’re learning the sport.”
Many of the campers’ parents are tennis players themselves and want their children to experience the sport’s great attributes that they enjoy. That includes the social camaraderie ingrained in tennis, and the sport’s affordability – with many public courts and low-cost club memberships available citywide.
Running at many west-end sites such as Britannia Yacht Club and Valleystream Tennis Club, the Tennis For Life camps feature a half-day option popular for parents who would like to have the morning or afternoon with their kids – that time sometimes spent rallying themselves.
“It’s a really unique sport with the family aspect,” highlights Patterson, who has many lifelong friends from tennis. “There aren’t too many sports where you can all play together. The age disparity doesn’t matter in tennis. It’s really a sport for life.”