From six-year-old youths first learning on the fly to retired folks spending their relaxing years hitting the courts at their local country club, tennis is a sport that caters to all age groups.
That’s one of the many reasons that it continues to be one of the more popular activities in the country, and in 2020 alone the United States Tennis Association (USTA) saw a 22 percent increase in participation from the previous year.
In order to continue with that growth, the USTA has partnered with local parks and recreation programs to create “Tennis in the Parks Presented by Wilson”, an affordable learning program for new and beginner youth and adult players. Most recently, the organization expanded from its 30-plus towns across New England to include a location in Peabody, right at the high school.
“We have a longstanding relationship with the Peabody rec department and I know they were eager to get on board and offer tennis to their students while giving their kids an opportunity to play in a safe, socially distant manor,” said USTA of New England’s manager of media and communications, James Maimonis.
“Tennis is thriving; it was the fastest growing sport in the country last year and nearly three million new players picked up a racquet in 2020. We’re hoping to use that momentum to bring tennis to as many new programs as we can.”
The nearby program in Tanner City, which offers small group lessons for children and young adults grades 1-8, is one of 33 locations here in New England. Sessions began on July 6 and will continue to run through August 10, with plans in place to hold a fresh program in the fall as well.
For instruction purposes, each age group utilizes a different ball that bounces a certain height: grades 1 and 2 use a red ball (bigger and more “dead” than a normal tennis ball); grades 3, 4 and 5 use an orange ball (bigger but less “dead” than a red ball); and grades 6, 7 and 8 use a green ball, which is the last step before transitioning to a normal high school or tour sized yellow tennis ball.
Peabody’s sessions, which last for one hour each Tuesday afternoon/evening, are led by Middleton’s Maria Schena, an instructor with more than 30 years of experience. Unlike most private or group lessons, the program offers an affordable six-week price point of $80 for Peabody residents and $90 dollars for non-residents.
“Our hope is to get kids in from a young age. A lot of people are turned off to the idea of lessons because historically they can be very expensive,” added Maimonis. “We’re trying to get these young kids in at an affordable price range and get them hooked on tennis so that they can continue to play the sport as they get older.”
In addition to the hour long session, each new participant receives their very own tennis racquet (courtesy of Wilson), along with a T-shirt.
“Wilson provided us with 100s, maybe 1,000s of racquets of all different sizes that are age oriented,” said Maimonis. “It’s really exciting that they get to use these racquets to play and practice at home.”
In the case of inclement weather, Tuesday sessions are postponed for Thursday of that week with another make-up date TBD if Thursday is a wash as well.