Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

New group hopes to serve Lansing tennis community

February 1, 2007

The tennis courts at Lansing High School buzzed with activity all summer long thanks to local tennis enthusiasts and participants at LHS tennis coach Rachel Elkins' Match Point Tennis Camp.

If a new local organization has its way, the courts will be even busier in the years to come - and there might even be new courts. For now, however, the short-term goal of the newly formed Lansing Community Tennis Association is to help the sport grow.

"The Match Point camps this summer were my way of seeing what the interest was in the community," Elkins said. "What I found was there definitely was a population interested in our sport and there was a lot of opportunity for growth."

Elkins, parents of LHS tennis players and other tennis lovers from the community first met Oct. 25 with representatives from the United States Tennis Association to learn what they needed to do to establish a Community Tennis Association. The USTA representatives assisted with the necessary paperwork, and on Oct. 30 the Lansing Community Tennis Association became an officially recognized organization under the umbrella of the USTA. It was a big first step for a fledgling group that hopes to create opportunities for tennis players of all ages.

"It's a good group that wants to help foster the game," said Elkins, who was voted LCTA president. "And it's not all tennis players. It's parents concerned about enhancing the sport for their children, parents wanting to bring more facilities to the community, and people who want to foster a game that's a lifetime sport."

Kathy Cavaleri is the director of marketing for LCTA and mother of an LHS tennis player. She said lots of opportunities for kids exist in tennis. She said the LCTA hopes to provide avenues for them to develop in the sport early so they can be successful in the future.

"If you look from a school perspective and you want to build a good tennis program, it's got to start when they're young," she said. "Just look how volleyball does it here in Lansing. The kids start really young, and the proof is in the pudding. Look at how well they've done over the years."

Although the LCTA still is in its infant stages, it has established some short- and long-term goals. One of the short-term targets is to bring people of all ages into the sport and teaching those players new skills. The most ambitious long-term goal is to work with Lansing Parks and Recreation and Lansing School District to upgrade the community's tennis courts.

Gaining membership with USTA was a first step in attaining the long-term goal. USTA membership is free of charge, and it opens the door for the group to apply for financial grants that could be used for facilities upgrades or other tennis-related needs in the community. Elkins said she is working with Parks and Recreation director Jason Crum to get the city registered with USTA, too.

"With our Parks and Rec program on board, there's grants out there for facilities and refurbishments and adding on to facilities," Elkins said. "That's where Parks and Rec is on board with us, because there's grants out there for $200,000, and it's just a matter of applying for them."

Elkins said the group also will work with the school district to develop common goals for facilities development and other tennis initiatives. As the high school coach, she said the schools already have been very supportive of the sport.

Elkins said her biggest task as coach and LCTA president is communication to make sure her organization, the city and the school district all are on the same page.

"You have to be in sync with your partners," she said. "You have to make sure everybody's on the same sheet of music."

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