City of Leesburg (Fla.) youngsters enjoy participating in new Start Smart Tennis program


When it came time for the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS) to test out its newly designed Start Smart Tennis program, they looked no further than to one of their most valued chapters – the City of Leesburg (Fla.).
“The City of Leesburg has shown significant growth in terms of their Start Smart participation during the last two to three years,” said Andy Parker, director of Start Smart. “Once they expressed interest in hosting a Start Smart Tennis program, it was an easy decision to reward them with the opportunity as a thank you for their commitment to Start Smart and the youth of their community.”
This past spring both the City of Leesburg and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) Youth Sports served as the exclusive test centers for this new and innovative instructional tennis program. Both sites held the program over a six-week long period.
Similar to other Start Smart sports specific programs, Start Smart Tennis is a developmentally appropriate introductory tennis program for children ages 5-7. The program prepares children for organized tennis in a fun, non-threatening environment.
“All of the Start Smart programs that we have advertised and run have shown a demand for that age group wanting to become involved in sports, this one included,” said Brian Andriechuk, assistant director of recreation for the City of Leesburg. “The participants in our program had a great time and learned some things about tennis.”
A loyal Start Smart site since 2006, the City of Leesburg is hoping Start Smart Tennis will help to grow its newly created tennis league.
Start Smart Tennis prepares children and their parents for organized tennis without the threat of competition or the fear of getting hurt. Age appropriate equipment from Head® and Penn® is used in teaching ground strokes, serving, volleying and running/agility.
“We did our program in the gym and had the parents and kids play with nets the last night,” Andriechuk said. “They absolutely loved doing that. We didn’t need the net until then even though the drill had asked to use one.”
The program consists of four different stations where children can learn about and practice various aspects of the game. Children are taught to master simple tennis skills, such as balancing a tennis ball on their racket while moving in different directions, bouncing the ball on their racket as many times as possible, hitting the ball in midair in the direction of their parent, and negotiating an agility course created by the coaches before the practice.
Like all Start Smart programs, Start Smart Tennis is designed for children to work one-on-one with a parent or guardian in a safe, pressure-free environment.
“I think it was a great program that can teach both parents and children the basics on how to prepare for lessons,” Andriechuk said.

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