Most people love Fridays. Seven years ago, Tim Haus couldn’t stand them.
“I had a problem with the fact that on Friday nights, our courts were [empty],” said Haus, a staff tennis pro at Birchwood Tennis & Fitness Club in Clarks Summit, Pa. “I wanted to do something to change that.”
These days, Fridays just might be Haus’ favorite day.
Haus and the tennis staff at Birchwood are currently running a seven-week junior program that takes place on Friday nights, bringing area high-school aged players to the club for a night of tennis competition, instruction and games. The program, which started seven years ago and runs throughout the winter, has become largely popular in the Eastern Pa. tennis community, and has helped introduce countless players to the sport. It’s also been a chance for players to prepare for the spring high school tennis season.
This year’s program has two more nights scheduled: Mach 7 and March 14.
“It’s really been a win-win,” Haus said. “The program has been terrific for the club, and for the kids.”
The idea came about seven years ago, when Haus was thinking of new ways to get the courts buzzing more on Friday nights throughout the winter. Always looking to introduce tennis to as many new players as possible, Haus looked to the junior crowd. He reached out to local high school coaches and players about the possibility of Friday night events. The idea stuck, and after the first night, he knew it would be a success.
“It seemed like a good time to start a six or seven week program,” he said. “I knew it wouldn’t cost a lot with the discounted court time, and it would get more kids playing tennis a bit more, and get them prepared for the season.”
After the program gained popularity over the years, Haus began registering the Friday play events as USTA Play Days. The cost is $10 per player, per event, and the players can sign up for as many – or as few – as they’d like. On any given Friday, close to 100 players could arrive to play.
“They do such a good job with it, and all of the players have fun,” said Middle States Tennis Service Representative Renee Lentz. “It gets players involved and on the court when they wouldn’t have been otherwise. That’s what counts.”
Haus said the partnership with the USTA helped connect the club to a new group, and give players info on new tennis programming and options.
“It was great to collaborate, and it’s created more opportunities for these kids to play,” he said. “This program can help move players into other sessions, clinics, camps, Jr. Team Tennis, or anything else. It gets players interested and back into a tennis mode.”
The benefits of the program go beyond the court
“The kids forge these friendships with players from other areas, and with social media they can connect and stay in touch in a way they never could in the past,” he said. “We have kids coming from two hours away from this, and players who never would have met are now friends. High school coaches volunteer and help out, and that adds another dynamic to it. It’s a positive program all around.”
Haus said his outlook is to give as many players as possible a chance to enjoy tennis. It’s paying off, and he expects that to continue in the long run.
“I learned a long time ago that if you exclude people, you’re shooting yourself in the foot,” he said. “We need to be more inclusive in this game. I’ll invite anybody to come out and play, and give tennis a chance. Whether you’re USPTA, PTR, USTA, high school, or anything else, tennis should be done together.”