MRA and Kiwanis tennis camp a smash with kids

Cru Anciso looks to forehand the ball under Greg Sheffield's supervision at the MRA/Kiwanis Tennis Academy at the First Street Beach tennis courts. (KYLE KOTECKI/NEWS ADVOCATE)

Cru Anciso looks to forehand the ball under Greg Sheffield’s supervision at the MRA/Kiwanis Tennis Academy at the First Street Beach tennis courts. (KYLE KOTECKI/NEWS ADVOCATE)

MANISTEE — The Manistee Recreation Association partnered with the Kiwanis Club to host the annual Kiwanis Tennis Academy at the First Street Beach tennis courts this week.

The weeklong youth tennis camp was open for children between the ages of five and 13 and allowed them to learn how to play tennis without having to pay a dime.

“We’ve been partnered with the Kiwanis group here in town for years and years,” said MRA executive director Kenny Kott. “They’ve actually help fund it, so this camp is free unless the kids want a t-shirt, all because of the Kiwanis group making that happen. So, that’s really cool.”

The instructors ran the children through a variety of drills and had them play games that required them to put what they learned to use.

“We focus on basic fundamentals,” said tennis instructor Greg Sheffield. “They learn forehands, backhands. We do a lot of taps to work on eye-hand coordination. And we tap the ball down, also. We try to keep them moving. With the beginning kids we don’t play a lot of official games yet because they’re still learning the game.”

In addition to Kott and Sheffield, instructors included Manistee varsity tennis coach and former MRA executive director Vicki Sheffield as well as Manistee tennis players Jaelyn Thomas, Katie Huber and Breanna Alexander.

Though there were slightly fewer participants than usual this year, Kott wasn’t concerned. The kids were able to learn how to play tennis, make new friends and have fun, which was the main goal of the camp.

“Numbers are a little bit down this year compared to previous years, but there’s a lot of other camps and stuff going on, too,” Kott said. “But it’s been a fun week.”

Greg Sheffield saw significant improvement in many players throughout the course of the week and hopes the kids stick with the sport for years to come.

“Just from Monday a lot of kids made big improvements — from holding the racket right, to bouncing the ball and keeping the ball on the racket,” Greg Sheffield said. “Some kids are already ready for the next step. They’re up for another move. We’ve got a few that are real good and a few that are still learning, but overall, we’re making it.”

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