Wearing their new Mini Rogers Cup headbands and smiling faces, a group of young kids had a blast running around the courts, hitting balls, and playing games at their regular Wednesday night session at the University of Toronto Scarborough Tennis Club last week.
A partnership between University of Toronto, East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, and East Scarborough Storefront, the program provides local kids with free weekly tennis classes, offered in the spring, summer, and fall. The kids also receive a free racquet and can of balls so they can continue to play on their own, plus snacks at each session. The program is supported by the Henry Norrington Endowment Fund.
Daniel Johnson has been bringing his eldest daughter Keziah to the program for about three years, and his younger daughter Samantha and niece Skyla now also participate. He says they absolutely love coming to tennis every week. Tennis is their main physical activity, and he has seen the positive effects the sport has had on them.
“For my girls, just the activity and the confidence has been good for them,” he said. “Samantha is only six, but she’s seen Keziah do it and now she’s seeing the progression in herself. For Keziah, it’s been a huge confidence boost, because she’s not big into sports but tennis was something she really liked. She’s been progressing and getting better at it, and it’s giving her confidence.”
Starting in 2012, the program has introduced about 300 kids to tennis and provided them with beginner and intermediate lessons so they can enjoy all the benefits of playing tennis with their friends. Head pro Dustin Sexton has seen many of the kids improve, to the point where some have taken lessons on their own as well. But ultimately, the goal is to simply get kids playing tennis.
“It’s just introducing them to the sport of tennis, and if they can rally at the end of the session, I’m a happy camper. As long as they’re having fun.”
Mini Rogers Cup, aimed at encouraging participation among kids under 12 and expanding Rogers Cup into the local community, has been ongoing over the past several weeks at clubs across the province. The University of Toronto Scarborough Tennis Club is just one of many clubs taking part, with clubs determining their teams to send to the regional finals in mid-July.
The Mini Rogers Cup finals will then take place in the few days leading up to the start of the main event, with winners and finalists invited to a day at Rogers Cup presented by National Bank where they will be featured in a Centre Court ceremony.