Surrounded by former and current Brainerd High School tennis players, Lisa Salo recently began another session of Little Tennis on a warm June morning at the Forestview tennis courts. Youngsters, wearing fresh name tags and their court shoes, reached for their rackets and began to play games such as sandwiches, roll ball, slider, blast off, lobster claws and gone fishing.
Salo started the program 17 years ago and now those first students are current and former Brainerd High School tennis players that help her with the program.
With 50-minute sessions for four days, the program is centered on getting the 4, 5 and 6-year-olds excited about tennis so they go home and tell their family “lets play tennis”.
When the future tennis players show up at the courts, music is playing and current tennis players begin to work with individual children. On the courts are short tennis nets, shorter and lighter tennis rackets, low compression tennis balls and stationary hanging tennis balls. After a brief introduction and a gathering of students, the activities begin. The games are intended to increase coordination and make the game fun for the little players. Next, the students break into groups and staff members work with the children with games intended to increase their skills at tennis.
The grand finale of the session ends with a game of popcorn where tennis balls are dropped into a 20 foot parachute and the children try to send the balls to the moon.
“Seeing the connections develop between the “future” Brainerd tennis players and the current and former players is great to observe, “ Salo explained.