Valleywide tennis programs get youths, seniors on the courts

Tennis is an internationally known sport, and opportunities to play are abundant throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

Ryan Wolfington, director of the United States Tennis Association’s Nevada chapter, said tennis is an ideal sport for people of any age.

“Tennis is still the sport of kings and queens, but anyone can get involved,” Wolfington said. “Our tennis community is about creating opportunities for families, children and adults.”

Programs are available for players age 3 to seniors. Wolfington said the association’s initiative this year is getting more children involved by offering free USTA memberships to those age 10 or younger. Starter camps for those 3 to 5 years old and beginner clinics for players age 6 to 10 are two of several ways in which children can get involved with the sport.

Neighborhood Tennis Academy, which was launched by Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly in November, is one of the valley’s newest youth tennis programs. The Southern Nevada Police Athletic League provides three lessons per week to 40 children at the Boys & Girls Club Andre Agassi Clubhouse, 800 N. Martin Luther King Blvd. Officer Melissa Lardomita, who runs the program, said it is open to children ages 6 to 17, though most are from government-
assisted housing facilities.

“These kids are just getting their feet wet (with tennis),” Lardomita said. “Some are here just for the fun of it, but some are interested in competing. If they do want to compete, we have those resources.”

The Neighborhood Tennis Academy gives incentives for youths to excel beyond tennis, offering “P.A.L. bucks” for good grades and hosting educational field trips every few weekends. Lardomita said the success of this new program is dependent on the youths’ performance both on and off the court.

Darling Tennis Center, 7901 W. Washington Ave., is one facility that offers not only starter camps for children but also an academy for juniors who want to be involved with tennis at a higher level. The Darling Tennis Center High Performance Junior Academy provides after-school training opportunities Monday through Friday for players at the tournament level in the sixth to 12th grades. The academy also has a “full school” program in which students train in the morning and take academic classes in the afternoon in addition to playing in USTA Intermountain tournaments throughout the region.

Sandy Foley, Darling Tennis Center facility manager, said that in addition to opportunities for children, adults have options for involvement. Darling Tennis Center hosts an adult drop-in clinic from 9 to 10:30 a.m. daily and from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at $15 each session. A one-hour cardio tennis clinic for $10 also is available from 8 to 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Foley said these clinics are designed for individuals constantly on the go.

“The drop-in clinics are a great way for those who have a very busy schedule to get involved,” Foley said. “It’s a nice option for people who are very busy, and it’s great way to meet people if you’re new in town.”

Wolfington said other programs, such as ones for Spanish-only speakers, seniors, competitive and recreational, are available through USTA Nevada. No matter which one an individual chooses, the benefits extend beyond exercise, he said.

“No matter what age you are, tennis will help you meet people and experience things you never would before,” Wolfington said. “The greatest thing about tennis is the relationships you create and the places you can go.”

For more information and a list of tennis facilities in Las Vegas, call 792-8384 or visit ustanevada.com.

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at lcarter@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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