A state championship can go a long way for a high school program. As well as allowing a team to earn their place in history and hang a banner in their gym, it can inspire many young athletes to try out for the sport and try to carry on the program’s success.
One program that might be seeing that effect is the Havre High tennis team after their boys team won a state championship in May. This week, the Havre Tennis Camp returned to Havre after missing out last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With its return, the camp saw almost 70 kids attend, a new record. Havre High head coach George Ferguson believes last spring’s state title as well as the return of the camp contributed to the camp’s record attendance.
“This is a huge turnout for tennis camp,” Ferguson said. “I think it’s probably a combination of not being able to have tennis camp last summer, or most sports camps for kids were cancelled last year for that matter. So I think we’re seeing kids getting back involved in things. They missed this. But I certainly do think us winning the state championship didn’t hurt as far as the turnout goes. It was an exciting end to our year and I hope kids see that and want to be a part of our program when they get to Havre High, and if this turnout is any indication, we’re certainly on the right path.”
Outside of last year, the Havre Tennis Camp is an annual event and is in its 15th iteration. The camp is held at Bill Vaughey Memorial Courts and is attended by players from several different age groups. Some of the tennis players returning to the camp were members of the Blue Ponies’ state title team, including senior-to-be Trenton Maloughney. He uses the camp to hone his tennis skills and is happy to be back after not getting to do it last year.
“It feels good. I’ve been coming (to camp) for a long time, and it felt good to get back to it,” Maloughney said. “It’s something you miss. It’s always kind of an annual thing we do so it’s great to get back.”
Ferguson hopes Maloughney and the other returning players use the camp to get ready for next spring as they try to defend their title as well as continue to build the program.
“Our high school players, this is a big two days for them,” Ferguson said. “They get two more chances to get some work in and compete, and that’s huge because next spring is not that far off. So we always have a good turnout with our high school kids. But, again, I think this might be the best turnout we’ve ever had, and that’s a credit to the state championship. I think all of our kids want to continue that momentum we built with the state championship. They want to be a part of it. They’re proud of it, and they’re here working hard this week, and I’m really proud of them for that.”
Younger tennis players such as Max Spangler also attended the Havre Tennis Camp to learn the fundamentals of tennis. Even though it is only the second time he has attended the camp, he is happy to have it back and be able to compete in it.
“It’s pretty nice. It’s a lot better than just having to sit home and just do nothing all day,” Spangler said. “It’s been really fun. There’s a lot of people, there’s a lot of activities and a lot of competition to have.”
Even though the 13-year-old will not get to hit the courts for the Ponies until the spring of his freshman year, he is excited to join the program and hopes to eventually help them continue their recent success.
“I’ll be very excited because I’ll get to play with my brother for two years and I hope to get another state title (for the Ponies),” Spangler said.
One reason for the record-breaking attendance at this year’s camp are the younger kids. Out of the 70 kids signed up for the camp, more than 30 of them are in the grades 1-5 group. Even though he is not sure whether all these younger tennis players will join his program in the future, Ferguson is happy to see the love for the sport grow.
“One of the best things about tennis camp is just seeing all of the younger kids have so much fun,” Ferguson said. “Whether they go on to play high school tennis or not, it is a great feeling knowing they come here for two days and seeing how much fun they have with a tennis racket in their hands, that’s what it’s all about. It’s really rewarding. Tennis is a very difficult sport, both physically and mentally. It’s very challenging. So it’s so cool to see how much fun these kids are having. Those smiles on their faces, that’s the best. I missed this camp so much. So it has been a blast these last two days.”
Camp veterans like Maloughney noticed the growth in the camp from the past several years. While it has made the camp a little hectic, he knows it is a positive sign for the sport in Havre.
“It’s been a little chaotic, a lot of little kids running around, but it’s great to see that our program’s growing,” Maloughney said. “Growing up, it used to be 30 kids, now it’s 70 kids. That’s a huge jump, so it’s awesome to see that. Tennis is growing in Havre.”