For six years, the future of tennis in Sequim has shone brighter each summer.
Don Thomas, instructor and coordinator of the Boys & Girls Clubs Tennis Summer Camp, has led hundreds of children ages 5-16 to the sport with help from 20-plus amateur and professional volunteers, including his brother Bill and several Sequim tennis squad standouts.
“Youth tennis is alive and well in Sequim,” Thomas said.
For two weeks, going through this Friday, he’ll coach about 60 students who are learning the basics and honing their skills for high school tennis.
Students are separated into age groups of 5 and 6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and advanced players up to 16.
Thomas said if a player performs exceptionally well among his/her peers, then he’ll move him or her to an older age group. One student had moved up three age groups already by midweek, Thomas said.
All players work on basics like the forehand, backhand, serving, volleying, hitting the ball over the net and more. Advanced players perfect these skills and add lobs, different kinds of volleys and more.
“The whole idea here is to keep them having fun and enjoying what they are doing,” Thomas said.
Younger players use foam balls made for 36-foot courts to prevent injuries while older/advanced players use regular tennis balls.
Students are briefed each morning recapping the skills they learned the day before with warm-ups, agility drills, various demonstrations on hitting and stances and games toward the end.
Karen Chan, a Sequim High School volunteer and tennis team player, is volunteering for the first time this summer and finds her students are cooperative and improving more and more each day.
“They’ve gotten through the concepts and strokes in four days. That’s impressive,” she said.
Another first-time camper Cannon Cummins, 8, finds the camp to be a lot of fun.
“It’s just like baseball but you swing a racket instead of a bat,” he said.
Cummins has played tennis before with his parents and really enjoys opportunities to hit the ball.
Chan said she used to be in the camp and remembers appreciating the help she received from volunteers. “I hope when they get to my age, they love (tennis) as much as me,” she said of the campers.
“It’s a lifelong game.”
Everything at the camp is donated, including professionals’ time. Several members of the Boys & Girls Club participate and receive discounts in the camp for playing. Parents can volunteer for three hours for five days to have one child enter for free.
Sabine Rockett of Port Angeles is volunteering her time and brought her four children ages 7, 10, 11 and 12 for a second year.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to really get a feel for tennis,” Rockett said. “It’s super fun to be with kids who love to play tennis.”
She finds it encouraging for her children and herself.
“It means a lot to me,” Rockett said. “I want to be able to play tennis with them, too.”
Some participants are familiar with Thomas’ coaching as he gives free private lessons to 25-30 children along with group lessons on Saturdays. “I don’t charge because I want the kids who can’t afford it to have access to the sport,” he said.
Even though the Thomas brothers are professionals in their 70s, they continue to learn about the game.
Don recently received a certificate from Emilio Sanchez, a former world-class tennis player and former Davis Cup captain for Spain, for completing his Academia Sanchez-Casal Player Development Course to develop tennis players the Spanish way.
For more information about the camp or lessons, call Thomas at 582-3033.