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First-time tennis instructors coach children at local camp

Cayden Veuleman, 5, tries to return a serve from his partner Wednesday at Concordia Recreation District 3 Complex. (Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat)
Cayden Veuleman, 5, tries to return a serve from his partner Wednesday at Concordia Recreation District 3 Complex. (Justin Sellers / The Natchez Democrat)

Vidalia — Nancy McLemore, Alma Melton and Lynette Turner were just certified as tennis instructors on Sunday and already they’re out on the court teaching 40 children the fundamentals of the game.

After getting certified by Bill Phillips, the United States Tennis Association southern region director, McLemore, Melton and Turner said they were eager to get active with children who want to learn the sport.

This week they hosted the La-Miss Community Tennis Association Camp, and the new instructors have had their hands full with children ages 5 to 11 teaching them the correct form of a forehand swing.

The camp is located at the Concordia Recreational District 3 Complex.

Children are broken up into five groups according to age and are taught, step-by-step the basics of tennis.

Melton said it takes patience to instruct children at such a young age.

“You have to let them play,” she said. “The main things they must learn is to keep their eye on the ball and how to hold the racket correctly is a big thing.”

Melton is implementing drills that the children can use at home to help them with their skills.

“We give them three practice balls to practice with at home,” Melton said. “We’re getting their coordination together and practice makes perfect.”

Turner is teaching 8 year olds, and she said she is implementing three keys into her coaching methods.

“Agility, hand-eye coordination and having fun is what we’re doing,” Turner said. “Tennis is a lifetime sport, and they should be able to play it until they’re 90.”

Turner is teaching the more difficult backhand swing to her group, and she said teaching children is easy for her.

“It’s fun, because I’ve worked with kids for a longtime, most of us (camp instructors) were teachers or has had children so we know children.”

Josh Ingram said he joined the camp because he likes the sport, and he wants to learn as much as he can about tennis.

“We’re hitting the ball right now, and I want to learn how to serve the ball,” he said.

McLemore is the president of the La-Miss Community Tennis Association, and she said Wednesday was her first time getting to work with 5 and 6 year olds.

McLemore said she is making sure to move slowly so the children won’t be overwhelmed with techniques. But McLemore said it could be difficult to get children to move slowly sometimes.

“We’re working on the forehand, and I’m getting them to slightly tap the ball across the net which is hard because they all want to hit it hard.”

Tennis camper Devin Sanford said he’s getting better with his forehand swing, and he can’t wait to move on to more techniques.

“(Hitting with forehand) is not hard,” Sanford said. “I want to learn whatever they’ll teach me next.”

The camp will end today but McLemore, Turner and Melton said they are looking forward to spending years training children to become tennis players.

“It feels good to help children,” Melton said. “You never know, two or three of them might become tennis pros.”