Archive for Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tennis pro to offer free tennis lessons to De Soto Youth

July 24, 2008

If the best things in life are free, tennis lessons for the De Soto youth may be one of the best things in life.

At least it could seem that way for a 4-year-old, or more evidently, for that 4-year-old's parent.

Kevin Kowalik, Head Tennis Professional at Homestead Country Club, will introduce free tennis lessons to the De Soto community during the last week of July and the first week of August. The lessons will take place in two different sessions - but young athletes are encouraged to participate in both - and include three age groups from 4 to 10 years old.

"My goal is to start a grass roots program and try to keep it going. And then I'm going to keep offering these next year," Kowalik said. "I may grow them to the adults, maybe to older kids and see where we are. I wanted to see what the interest level was with this age group."

The two sessions are from July 28 to 31, and from August 4 to 7. Children ages 4 to 6 will attend from 5:30 to 6 p.m., 7 and 8-year-olds from 6 to 6:45 p.m., and 9 and 10-year-olds from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m.

The days and sessions will progress and build on previous lessons, but Kowalik said the pace is such that if a kid can only attend, for example, the second week, he or she could pick up what was learned in previous lessons. About 95 percent of the kids who are signed up are planning to attend both weeks.

Currently there are about 85 children signed up.

Kowalik received a grant for about $350 to buy the necessary equipment for the lessons, and he used the money to purchase items needed to employ the Quickstart Tennis program.

The Quickstart program is a play format that modifies court size, ball structure and scoring to generate interest and introduce young players to the game.

That meant aside from purchasing rackets, the grant went to purchasing additional nets, modified foam balls for younger players and pressure-less tennis balls for the older players.

Kowalik spoke glowingly of the program, which he's used during the summer with programs he teaches at Homestead Country Club.

"(It) is a great program. It really teaches the kids how to play a lot faster, gets them going," he said, "so there's a little bit more interest level for the kids."

Kowalik - who assisted in coaching at Kansas University and Baylor, and was the head coach at Wichita State and the University of Oregon - is a US Professional Tennis Association certified tennis professional and will supervise the lessons.

De Soto High School current and former players and coaches will help when available. Many of those current and former players began their playing careers with similar lessons.

"They understand this grass roots mentality because it's kind of where they began. Everybody kind of started as a group, learning how to play when you're young," Kowalik said. "I think they're excited about it."

The beginning of the lessons will cover things such as the introduction of lines and objects and how to properly swing a racket, and progress to such things as hand-eye coordination, agility and balance drills.

"We're also having fun games, and hopefully towards the end of the two weeks the older kids will be able to have rallies on our adapted court with our adapted balls, and the 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds are having a good time, learning a little bit," Kowalik said.

The sign-up period is still going on, and it's suggested parents call Kowalik at (913) 302-3313 so that an accurate head count can be formulated. In the event that parents can't get in touch with Kowalik, the lessons will start at the times listed above, July 28 at the De Soto High tennis courts.

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