by CHRIS ROGERS
Dozens of young tennis players from across the area got a chance to develop their skills last weekend when the Winona Area Tennis Association (WATA) hosted a pair of U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) camps.
“It’s not just about your feet and your hands. A big part of being a good tennis player is what?” USTA coach Steve Tacl quizzed a group of high school players at the Saturday event. “Being smart,” one boy chimed in. “That’s right,” Tacl said, before launching into discussions of racquet grips and doubles strategy.
WATA hosted a camp for 7-10-year-olds, as well as a camp focused on doubles for high schoolers. They were the first USTA events at the Winona Tennis Center in 30 years, WATA Board member Bill Drazkowski said. “They do such a wonderful job of promoting tennis,” local coach Tom Sanvik said of USTA. Pointing to the Saint Mary’s University players volunteering to help with the camp, Sanvik added, “It’s a good, community-type tennis atmosphere.”
“The whole purpose of this is it’s an awesome way for kids in this area to get tennis on their radar,” Tacl told the Post. The session for young children focused on basic athleticism and mechanics, while the session for older players drilled them on doubles technique, such as volleys and cross-court shots. “In doubles, it probably becomes even more important that you understand strategy and positioning,” Tacl said. “If you understand where you need to be on the court in doubles and you understand the basic strategy, you don’t have to be a super star technically to be very good,” he added.
Many of the attendees came from the La Crosse, Wis., area, where there are no indoor tennis facilities, Drazkowski noted. Having a place like the Winona Tennis Center to practice in the winter, Tacl said, “That’s an asset. A lot of towns don’t have that.”
Drazkowski thanked USTA for helping put on the camps, which he said were a great kickoff to winter programming at the Winona Tennis Center. “We’re trying to broaden the club, broaden the geography, broaden the programming,” he said. “The USTA and their resources helped get the coaches and things we needed to put on the program,” he added. Asked about the response the camps received, Drazkowski responded, “It was great. Anytime you ask someone to come invest in your community, you really hope the community engages with it and turns out. So I was really excited that they did. It shows there is more demand and more interest in programming like this.”
WATA offers programs and memberships for tennis and pickleball for all ages. More information is available at www.winonatennis.com.