Summer is here! I still get so excited for the first day of our summer program every year. The few weeks leading up to the start of the program are crazy with Fore, Love & Money, (see below), then moving into a week of instructor training and mixing in all the other things we do to get ready for the over 2,500 kids we will see this summer. We like to call it “organized chaos.” As I write this, there are kids in our garden tasting rhubarb for the first time, and kids downstairs reading excerpts from a chapter book. At the end of their class, they’ll all enjoy some strawberry rhubarb crisp. An instructor just came in to grab some additional equipment and a former board member dropped off donated books and golf clubs. It’s chaos, but this chaos creates a wonderful program, with so many little extra details that make it special. Each week the kids take home a fun learning activity (solar bead bracelets with the science behind it explained, and some 4th of July facts, mazes and word searches this week). They get healthy tips, and educational ideas each week. They’ll get books to take home and MVP Healthcare is creating a Playground Olympics for them in a few weeks! There will be loads of tennis in 10 different parks, with instructors who are new, and some who have been with us practically since they were born. We try to keep it fun, we try to keep kids engaged, whether they like tennis or not. We’ve certainly heard from some kids that they tolerate the tennis because they like the educational & life skills portion of the program – and that is great! We try to have something for every kids to be successful. During instructor training, the instructors learn that their goal is for every child to have a positive experience in every class – if they miss every ball, then make sure they do something great in off-court (the educational portion) – and if that doesn’t work, then say something nice about their shoes.
Every once in a while, I get reminded about how old I am. Today was one of those days. In between classes, one of our graduates, Richie, who now lives in Atlanta, popped in unannounced. He was in town visiting family. He and his wife have 5 kids of their own, and their oldest just graduated from college. He was one of “my kids” from back when I was an instructor (although I don’t think I was much older than he was when I started). I used to pick him up in my little red car and drive him to wherever practice was that day. He talked about how he misses it – he remembers the great times, and he misses it. I’m sure part of that had to do with the game of tennis. It’s what brings us together. And, I’m forever grateful for that. I hope that some of the kids who are here today will be coming back in 20 years to say hello and reminisce. It’s part of what makes this place special.
I hope you all have a wonderful summer!