PV tennis teams give back with free youth camp

Karl Schneider
Piedra Vista High School senior Zander Halgryn leads a group of elementary school students in an exercise during a tennis camp on Wednesday at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Farmington.

FARMINGTON – The Piedra Vista boys and girls tennis teams have been running a free tennis camp for local kids this week, and it has been a major success.

The camp, held at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Farmington, began Monday and will conclude this afternoon. During Wednesday’s hour-long session, 73 kids, most of them in grade school, were in attendance.

“We wanted to find a way for the teams to give back to the community, and this seemed to be one of the better ways to do that,” PV girls coach Alison Goff said.

During the camp, kids break into groups and are taught the game’s fundamentals by the members of the PV tennis teams. Each day, the different groups cycle through various stations, working on different aspects of the game, and each day, the stations increase in the level of difficulty.

“The first day is learn by trial, just to see what the kids know, and the next day, we show them how to hold the racket correctly, what a forehand is, what a backhand is,” PV boys coach Jenny Baker said. “They move from one station to the next, building on what they learned the previous day.”

Northeast Elementary School third-grader Declan Mattison counts off 193 bounces on his tennis racket during a tennis camp on Wednesday at Boys & Girls Clubs of Farmington.

This is the fifth year the camp has been held, but this year is the first it was moved from spring break to January, which allows more players on the tennis teams to help out and more children to attend.

“The kids here at the Boys & Girls Club probably don’t have the opportunity to pay for a tennis camp, whether it’s local or not, so this provides them exposure (to tennis),” Baker said. “It’s not about becoming a great tennis player, just knowing what the sport is about, and getting out and being active.”

The camp provides tennis rackets for the kids to use. Baker said the equipment has come either from picking up used rackets at garage sales, or through donations, which range from members of the community dropping off rackets to the tennis program at the University of New Mexico sending rackets for the kids to use.

Both Baker and Goff said the camp serves as a good team-building experience for the players, and many of the Panthers have as much, if not more fun, than the campers.

“To be honest, I don’t know who gets the most out of this,” Goff said. “I think our players, the high school kids, enjoy it just as much as the youngsters, but in a different way. You can see some of them (the Panthers) get attached to their students. They work with the same group of students the whole week, and they (the campers) actively look out for their coaches when they come in.”

Members of the Piedra Vista High School boys and girls tennis teams lead an exercise on Wednesday during a free tennis camp at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Farmington.

PV girls player Alyssa Baker, a sophomore, and boys senior Kalani Aligarbes said the camp helps the upper and lower classmen on the team build a relationship with each other, which will help the teams when the season begins in the spring.

And it gets the high school players thinking about getting back on the court after seeing the enthusiasm of the campers.

“We’re really excited,” Aligarbes said. “We’re all ready to get out (on the court) and hit a little bit. It gets us really excited.”

Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.