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Boca Raton News - Students now part of Saturday tennis league

Published Sunday, November 3, 2002
by Carrie Pagley

Several days each week, the tennis courts at Veterans Memorial Park on Palmetto Park Road are filled with tens of small tennis pros – or future tennis pros.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the students who attend the after-school care program at the Youth Activities Center in west Boca Raton learn the basic skills of a sport many of them had never played before – tennis.
“When I first came here to play tennis, it was pretty hard,” said Hammock Point Elementary School fourth-grader Richard Guerra, 10.
Now he does pretty well and even plays in a Saturday league.
The Complete Player Institute has been providing tennis instruction two days a week to the students, many of whom live in disadvantaged neighborhoods, in the after-school program at the Youth Activities Center for more than a year.
This year, though, a new program has started where students who have become proficient at tennis can be part of a Saturday United States Tennis Association league for young people.
The students play other young people from around the area.
“The other children at the clubs have been practicing for years – they have pros,” said Ellen Vahab, executive director of the Youth Activities Center.
But she said, her students have improved so much, they’re competing very well.
“They’re gaining confidence. They’re hitting the ball,” she said.
Vahab said the USTA helps the professional tennis players give some of their time to help with the league and has donated money for rackets.
Scott Williams, founder of the Complete Player Institute, said teaching young people tennis gives them the chance to learn a sport they can do for life.
“It’s much more than just tennis. We focus on trying to help them become complete players in life,” Williams said. “Just like life, sometimes your tennis game will be really great. Sometimes it won’t be.”
He said when he began teaching them the basics a year ago, many of the students had never held a tennis racket before. Now many students know how to play and play well enough to participate in the league play on Saturdays.
Williams hopes to be able to expand the tennis program for the children through 12th grade.
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