Like a volley, these tennis players are ready to return to the court.
The Stewart Middle School students are taking part in an after-school tennis program put on by the Sarah Vande Berg (SVB) Center and Foundation.
The youths spend afternoons twice a week doing their homework and then heading out to the school’s tennis courts to learn the fundamentals of the sport. Plus, they get some exercise, too.
“They embrace getting the work and homework done, and then they pressure us, ‘OK, we’re done. Let’s go out to the court,’” coach Ava Sambrano said with a smile. “And, that’s because we keep it very fun. We teach them different drills, the different types of strokes with the racquets — we work on footwork, hand-eye coordination and keep it all fun because that’s what they look forward to.”
Sambrano is a coach from the SVB Center, which will provide this program twice a week through nearly the rest of this school year at Stewart Middle, 38505 10th Ave., in Zephyrhills.
The program, presented by the SVB Foundation’s Play Days program, explains tennis basics to many who have not been exposed to the sport.
It’s a way to provide those students with access to lessons and tennis equipment.
“Tennis can be a very expensive sport,” said Sambrano, who played college tennis and was a JuCo national champion. “It’s free (thanks to the Center and Foundation) for them to participate, so we try to bring a sport that they can do and enjoy. I think it’s great we can try to pass on these skills and some values that might prepare them for not only tennis, but in life, as well.
“Parents want them to do an activity,” she added. “A little after-school thing to do before they can be picked up. Many are from low-income homes, so we try to promote physical activity and fitness, and have a better focus on their life.”
And, it’s easy to see the kids are all on board, as Sambrano pointed out. The program has nearly 25 kids and each is eager to grab a racquet after school.
“I’ve learned a lot here playing tennis,” student Charles Irving said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’m always looking forward to getting my work done, so we can get on the court.”
Trey Hochstetler, another student, said: “I really like tennis a lot. And I like tennis because it’s a sport I’m actually good at, and I plan on playing in high school and going to the (SVB) Center.”
Stewart Principal Joshua Borders hopes this tennis program will pave the way for additional after-school programs.
The school has athletic teams, but Borders wants to add other sports that offer similar after-school programs.
The programs can be a pipeline to high school teams, Borders said.
By getting an early start, the athletes will be better prepared if they would like to keep on playing, he added.
“We want to do more after-school programs with other spots, so, hopefully, with this success, we’ll be able to do that in the future,” Borders said.
Published April 13, 2022
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