It’s a question Belen High School head coach Regina Elkins cries out every year when she holds her annual tennis camps.
This weekend, more than 50 aspiring tennis players participated in camps held during the cooler morning hours at the high school courts. Elkins is assisted by Eagles boys coach Tom Sanchez and several players involved in the high school program.
“Thank God for those kids,” Elkins said of her helpers. “Because that’s what we need — we need the help.”
Instruction is given to beginners, advanced beginners and intermediate players during three three-day camps held over successive weekends in June. The second set started on Friday and Elkins was pleased with the turnout, especially with the younger players.
“We have 53 kids. And we have lots of new beginners,” she said excitedly.
Capturing the interest of beginning players is a primary objective of the camps, according to Sanchez. “It’s to build a little enthusiasm in the community for tennis,” he said. “We try to get their interest up and learn the game of tennis so they can come out and play — play with their parents or their brothers or sisters or friends.
“It’s a lifetime sport,” he continued. “Along with other games, like golf, we see people out here playing who are old guys like myself. And if you learn it at this age and develop your skills a little bit, you can enjoy it your whole life. It’s a lot of fun. It’s good exercise too.”
Five-year-old Adrian Delacruz is already on his way to a lifetime of playing tennis. “I played a long time ago. When I was 4,” he said. “I forgot a lot,” so Adrian was there to brush up on his skills.
Erin MacEachen is a little older and a little more experienced. The 12-year-old advanced beginner has been playing tennis for two-and-a-half years now. On Friday, she was working on taking her game to the next level. “We were practicing serves and learning how to play a game,” she said. “It’s fun to play. Everyone who wants to play tennis should learn, because it’s fun.”
The kids weren’t the only ones having a good time. Clarita Valdez, who plays varsity tennis at BHS and is serving as one of the camps instructors, is enjoying herself.
“I have a blast here,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun teaching kids how to play one of my favorite sports.”
Valdez said it’s gratifying to see the kids improve. “A lot of kids didn’t know how to hold a racket or anything. Now they’re hitting them over the net,” she said.
Soon they’ll be hitting volleys, backhands and overheads. They’ll be playing on public courts with their families and friends. Perhaps they’ll still be playing 50 years from now.
All because they answered Elkins’ call: Tennis Anyone?