Schenectady County

Youngsters like fun, fitness of tennis camp

Collins Park in Scotia is littered with water bottles, tennis balls and sweaty children wielding ten

Collins Park in Scotia is littered with water bottles, tennis balls and sweaty children wielding tennis rackets.

For the 11th year, tennis instruction is being offered at the park for kids ages 7 to 15 and the campers can’t get enough.

“The kids often stay past the end time to keep playing tennis with one another, and that says a lot,” Barbara Schmitz, camp manager, said. “They’re very enthusiastic. They come every day ready to play and learn. Many kids come back session after session and summer after summer.”

This is Joshua Olson’s second summer at the camp. “It’s really fun and it keeps me in shape during the summer so I can play tennis at school,” said Joshua, 14, an incoming freshman at Scotia-Glenville Senior High School.

“We heard about the camp through a brochure we picked up in the library,” his mother, Melisa Olson, said. “It’s close to home, and it’s something he loves. Plus, the park is beautiful and it’s inexpensive.”

The program is sponsored by the Schenectady County Tennis Association in cooperation with 15-Love, a Capital Region organization that uses tennis to teach kids about healthful living and sportsmanship.

The camp is $35 a week and it includes five week-long sessions that alternate between two age groups: 7 to 10 and 11 to 15. The lessons are from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Thursday; Fridays are reserved to make up for days rained out.

“We’ve been lucky with the rain,” said Bart Metzgold, the primary instructor. “The rain has usually held off until the afternoon so we haven’t been rained out too much.”

Metzgold is assisted by two counselors and one volunteer, all camp veterans and all skilled tennis players for their high school teams.

“It’s a great summer job to have,” said Joe Holm, one of the counselors. Holm, 17, spent many of his summers as a camper and now he can give back. “I get paid to play tennis and share it with kids. It’s awesome.”

A.J. Metzgold, 15, another counselor, agrees. “It’s great to be able to teach kids to play a game I love.”

The campers are full of energy and eager to learn, Schmitz said. “They always want to improve their serves or hone some other skill. The kids are what makes the camp a success.”

The camp has grown substantially since its first year in 1999. Schmitz began the camp as a way to give kids in Scotia a way to become exposed to tennis. “It’s now not just Scotia, we have kids from all over the area,” she said.

In 1999, the camp had 56 kids. Last year there were 115. “We have 84 so far this summer,” Schmitz said. “But there’s still one more session left. Though, regardless of size, we have such a great group this year. They’re funny and enthusiastic.”

“I love working here because the kids make me laugh,” said Samantha Boulant, 15, a volunteer counselor at the camp. “It’s great to see their skills improve and know that I helped.”

On Thursdays the camp holds a session tournament where the campers split into teams and play one another for bragging rights and a prize — a $5 gift certificate to Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In, just across the street.

“I won first in singles and in doubles last week,” said Tiffany Paige, 10, of Mariaville. “Today I don’t know how I did, but I’m with the older kids so I think I did OK.” Tiffany showed so much skill and interest in the younger group that she was told she could come back this week to play with the older kids, as did her brother, Preston, 8.

Tiffany and Preston ride a half-hour every morning to make it to the camp on time. Preston is half of what the camp calls “Team Tiny.”

“I’m one of the smallest and youngest kids here,” he said. “I came in third place in the tournament today. It was cool.”

The final session of the camp is this week for ages 7-10. All levels of experience are welcome and registration is available the day of at the tennis courts in Collins Park.

“There’s no pressure here,” said Schmitz. “It’s all about fun and the love of tennis.”

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