It’s been gorgeous weather for tennis and that’s been good news for the 40 or so local boys and girls ages 5-12 participating in a free six-week tennis program at the Napa Valley Tennis Association courts.
Annika Ventura and Mike Fischer of Fischer International Tennis Training are running the H.I.T.S. – Honesty, Integrity, Teamwork and Sportsmanship – program sponsored by the United States Tennis Association for their first time. This is the third year that the NVTA has hosted the program at its courts behind Vintage High School.
After being hired in April, Fischer and Ventura worked with NorCal USTA representative Michelle Skipwith to help get the program running, “so we’ve been learning the program along with the kids,” Ventura said.
“Any age is a good age to start,” Fisher said Thursday during the latest session. “As soon as kids’ attention span allows them to take some instruction, we can start teaching them hand-eye coordination as young as 4-5 years old. It’s still just a country club sport, but here the kids can learn tennis for nothing and that’s awesome.”
Ventura noted that it’s a great way for kids who to learn tennis who might not have otherwise been introduced to the sport.
“It’s not like recreation soccer or T-Ball,” she said. “Now there’s a way for them to play and learn about tennis for the first time. Ours is a six-session program where the kids come once a week from 5-6 p.m. on Thursdays.”
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Rachael Bridgman, whose daughters Isabella and Imogen are enrolled in the program, just moved to Napa 12 months ago from Australia.
“They’re really enjoying the opportunity to try something new, something they haven’t done before,” she said. “Imogene has really taken to it and wants to continue with tennis.”
Added Isabella Bridgman, “I think it’s really fun, especially since I have a friend that does it with me. I’m already starting to remember some things that I’ve learned.”
The hope is the H.I.T.S. program hooks kids on tennis. They can then get involved with other USTA Junior Programs such as Red Ball, Yellow Ball and Green Ball Team Challenges, where they play matches, and eventually, end up playing in USTA Junior Tournaments.
Ventura said they had about twice the number of kids sign up this year as last year, and that each youngster was provided with a free swag bag containing a shirt, headbands, wristbands, sunglasses, and a handbook outlining the program.
Several volunteers, including members of the Vintage High boys and girls tennis teams, are helping Fisher and Ventura to run the program.