Camp serves up tennis

Published 12:01 am Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Tennis camp instructor Denise Harris helps De’Asja Covington with her swing Friday afternoon at the Duncan Park tennis courts.

NATCHEZ — A few local youth tennis players received a little help from Mother Nature Thursday and Friday and were able to make it out to Duncan Park to participate in a tennis camp to help prepare them for the upcoming school tennis season.

The weather cleared up, and warmed up enough for City of Natchez Tennis Director Henry Harris to host a tennis camp for local students.

“They can come refresh their tennis,” Harris said. “Most of them have been out since May. Some had summer camp and have been out since August but since then no tennis has been played.

“It’s more of a refresher course on all the strokes you need to play tennis. The season is coming up pretty fast, and they need to get back on the court.”

The camp opened Thursday and Harris said the turnout was less than expected due to some children still being away for the holidays. But he said he expects players from Cathedral, Natchez, Trinity, Wilkinson County and Tensas to make it for the session next Monday through Wednesday.

One Cathedral player, Dwain Perkins, was able to make it this week, and he was not only learning for himself but also teaching the younger players, he said.

“I’m more of a model for the younger kids to watch,” he said. “It’s good. I like being a role model for them.”

Perkins teamed with Cathedral’s Luke Whitaker to take home the MHSAA-1A No. 2 Boys Doubles State Championship last season, and even though Whitaker graduated, Perkins said he hopes to bring another title back to Cathedral.

“I want to win state again,” he said. “We lost some guys, but we should be good come February. And then I want to go to college and play tennis and then I’m not sure. Hopefully I can be a good coach someday.”

Perkins said he has a strong forehand and during camp he wants to improve his backhand, serve and conditioning. He said he models his game after French tennis star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and former ATP Top-10 American James Blake.

Harris said camps are a step toward achieving his ultimate goal.

“I love the game of tennis,” he said. “I want to always have someone out here playing, whether they are children or adults.”

Harris said the camp focuses on more advanced skills for the high school and junior high players and focuses on the basics for the younger players. Harris is even helping the players at camp with their equipment.

“It’s very important that we look at their rackets and grips to start and make sure they are OK,” he said. “Especially for the smaller kids.”

One of those younger players was 12-year-old Kirdis Clark. Clark is a student at Robert Lewis Middle School, and she said she is starting play with the middle school team this year.

“The camp is going to help me strengthen my play,” she said. “I want to strengthen my serves and anything I can work on.”

Clark said she understands that middle school tennis will be a new challenge for her.

“It’s going to be harder than playing campers, because these people know what they are doing. I’m going to have to bring my game.”

Clark’s 8-year-old sister Kelsey McNeal was also at the camp Friday. She said she has been playing tennis for five years, and she likes it because it is an active sport.

“I’ve been playing against my sister Kirdis,” she said. “I hope to get a scholarship after high school.”

Harris said he is looking forward to tennis season, and he expects some of the local teams to be strong.

“We should have some pretty good teams,” he said. “Trinity, ACCS, Natchez and Cathedral should finish pretty high in their district.”

The camp will continue from 3-5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday at Duncan Park.