Tennis camp teaches game rules and life lessons

Published 12:10 am Thursday, June 13, 2024

SALISBURY — Two nonprofits, Future Scapes and HOLLA!, teamed up once again this year to provide a weeklong summer tennis camp in Salisbury, teaching a wide variety of lessons to those who attended.

Gwen Jackson, who is the executive director for Future Scapes, is the former tennis coach at Livingstone College and serves as the camp director. In addition to Jackson, others providing leadership at the camp and on the court are Livingstone College Women’s Head Coach Marlon Henderson, Livingstone graduate and tennis player Brenre Taylor, and Martin Jackson, Gwen’s nephew who plays in North Carolina leagues in Charlotte and the surrounding area.

As noted on the Future Scapes Facebook page, HOLLA!, which stands for Helping Our Loved ones Learn and Achieve, received a North Carolina Tennis Foundation Emily H. Preyer Outreach Grant for the camp.

Gwen said the camp was held prior to COVID for three years and then it was restarted last year, partnering with HOLLA!, a nonprofit headquartered in Morven.

Future Scapes, which is located in Salisbury, is a “community development nonprofit organization that is committed to mentoring young people in neighborhood revitalization, urban redevelopment and community development,” she said.

Offering this tennis camp every summer is one of the special events that the organization does, Gwen said, both attracting young people to tennis but also providing activities where they can learn about community development and neighborhood revitalization.

She said the two nonprofits decided to partner together because they wanted to create an “urban/rural cultural relationship between young people who come from different parts of the area and get to know one another.”

Fifteen youth, ranging in age from seven to 16, participated in this year’s camp, where a variety of basic tennis skills were taught including the forehand and backhand, volleying, strokes and serving.

These tennis instructions were not the only things shared during the camp, as Gwen said, they also talk about commitment to athleticism, dependability, how to take constructive criticism, remembering how to put what they’ve learned into practice and learning how to correct what they know they need to improve on.

“We feel like those kinds of lessons will take them into any athletic pursuit and any life pursuit,” she said.

And it was some of these life lessons that several youth said they had learned. Kalani Deberry and Mackenzie Lavine, both mentioned good sportsmanship as lessons they had learned, and Lavine also said to listen and not talk back to your teacher.

Deberry, Lavine and Cyrina Chinaki, who all had attended previously, all simultaneously said they had had fun at the camp thus far and proceeded to show some of the things they had learned during the week including how to bounce the ball on the racquet and over the net.

This was the first year for Malik Ziyad to attend and he said he was enjoying it now that he has started playing.

“Really when I first came I didn’t really like tennis, but when I started to play, I really liked it,” he said.

Henderson said this was his first year to serve as the camp’s head coach and watching the youth develop and grow is always exciting. 

“When they first come in, they are at a certain level and then even in a couple hours or a couple of days, they improve,” he said.

On this third day of camp, Henderson said they would be covering a variety of topics including the serve, how to string rackets and doing racket grips and some fundamental techniques like footwork, the parts of the court, rules of the game and etiquette.

Soon after arriving the participants were out on the courts warming up and practicing with one of the coaches close by providing instruction and encouragement.

Receiving this help was one of the things that first-timer Paulina Vizviazzi said she enjoyed about it.

“I’ve enjoyed everybody here. They’re really nice and I enjoyed how much one on one time we get, she said. “I’ve learned a lot of new stuff.”

Aaliyah Costantino, who returned for her second year, said that her backhand was getting better than it was before, along with her serving.

Both Jeremiah Houghton and Major Rankin, who came for the first time this year, said tennis was harder than it looked.

“I definitely underestimated it,” Rankin said, but did say he had enjoyed having something to do and hanging out with his cousins and friend at the camp.

Houghton said he had learned lots of stuff but in particular he mentioned that you don’t have to hit with the racquet so hard, “because even if you hit it real slow, it is still going to have a large impact because we’ve put it over the fence a couple times.”

He noted how on television it appears the players are swinging with a lot of force, but they aren’t, “because if you serve it too fast it’s going to be out of here.”

Not only were those who came to camp to learn the game enjoying the camp, but the instructors expressed they were glad to be there to help.

Taylor, who played during her years at Livingstone College, said that being there to help is “something to give back to the community, to explore new things.”

Martin said for him it was a privilege to teach and pass along things he had learned that would enable these young people to be able to hit the ball correctly or the proper way to move their feet.

“That means a lot to me to see the progress since Monday,” he said. “It’s really cool to watch.”