At Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, Pa., tennis is handled a bit differently than some sports. Since there is no junior high tennis team, rising freshmen stepping onto the courts are likely getting their first taste of competitive, school tennis.
Rising senior Brienna Phillips is changing that.
For eight weeks this summer, Brienna and some of her teammates are holding free, two-hour clinics, three days a week with students from Hopewell Memorial Junior High School who are interested in joining the high school team.
“I wanted to get them going so they’d be more prepared to play in high school,” she said.
With help from her coaches, Brienna formulated a plan for conducting the clinics and took it to the Athletic Director and junior high administration for approval. When the “yes” was received, assistant coach Erin Pander quickly got involved. Middle States donated the red, orange foam and low compression balls used in 10 and Under Tennis, so the participants could best develop their skills. Brienna and her teammates also participated in a USTA Recreational Coaches Workshop through Middle States to learn how to best communicate with their pupils.
The growth Brienna and her teammates are seeing is outstanding. After almost five weeks of teaching, they are introducing the kids to the standard balls that are used in high school play.
But the progress goes far deeper than mere technical skills. The students are becoming more open and comfortable, not only among each other, but among Brienna and her teammates, too.
“They’ve been so supportive, and it has definitely brought us closer together,” Brienna said. “I’ve learned a lot about teamwork during this.”
After graduating next spring, Brienna hopes to stay involved with her high school team as much as possible. A team captain on the Hopewell team, she has not made a firm decision as to whether she will play in college, but will consider it more closely as she makes college visits.
For now, she is looking forward to watching the kids continue to grow as tennis players and students.
“I love getting people involved, because it’s such a great sport,” Brienna added. “I know if I hadn’t gotten them involved, they wouldn’t be playing tennis.”
A project like Brienna’s is possible at any school. For information on how to start one yourself, check out the School Tennis page here.
For information on coaching workshops, click here.