Jefferson City holds tennis camp

Jefferson City varsity tennis player David Steinmeyer helps instruct middle-schoolers as they play doubles matches during summer tennis camp Thursday afternoon at Washington Park.

Jefferson City varsity tennis player David Steinmeyer helps instruct middle-schoolers as they play doubles matches during summer tennis camp Thursday afternoon at Washington Park. Photo by Deborah Cote.

The Jefferson City tennis program finds itself in the middle of a youth movement, hoping to find the next generation of players in the capital city.

The first step came this week, as the Jays and Lady Jays took part in their summer camp for grades 3-12 at Washington Park.

Both boys and girls took part at the same time, with there being sessions for grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

“We had a real good middle-school camp, we had pretty good numbers for that,” Lady Jays coach John Blosser said. “We didn’t have very many for the elementary, but we haven’t done much elementary-wise. We want to start building that up.

“We’re making plans now to put together a Jay Tennis Club, much like volleyball and the other programs have. We want to do something after school in the elementary gyms and we hope to get that going this fall.”

The interest is so slight in some grades there’s playing time just begging to be had.

“I’m a little disappointed we don’t have very many freshmen out,” Blosser said. “We don’t have many boys and we’ve got one freshman girl right now and that’s about it. If anybody reads this in the paper and you’re a freshman who’s a good athlete, girl or boy, come on out.”

He added trying to get to the kids at a younger age could solve that problem.

“For the girls, softball and volleyball are the major fall things that compete with us, and cross country some,” Blosser said. “Those are the major sports that we lose girls to, and those sports start much earlier than we typically have. We’re trying to move down the age level when we get them hooked.”

Camps like this week’s are a big part of that, although this week’s warmer weather made things interesting.

“It hasn’t been too bad, but (Wednesday) we were very careful,” Blosser said. “But even with the young kids, they did pretty well. We split time between being on the court and doing stuff in the shade with some conditioning and fun games. I think they had a good time.”

And the warmer weather impacted another area.

“Instead of giving out T-shirts like we’ve often done in the past, we gave them water bottles,” Blosser said with a laugh. “That’s probably the most essential thing we could do for a tennis camp.

“... Until the weather got like it’s been this week, I didn’t really feel like it was tennis season. This is what it was like when I learned to play — summer and it was hot.”

Unlike many camps during the summer, this one was co-ed, even ending with a mixed doubles tournament.

“We may not do it every year, but we like having the boys and girls together occasionally, because there’s no reason they can’t hit balls together,” Blosser said. “And it gives us additional eyes with three or four coaches here to watch. Different eyes see different things. It’s gone real well.”

And out of both those groups, attendance among the returning varsity players was good.

“Our varsity camp has been very productive,” Blosser said. “We’ve had a pretty good number of the boys and almost all of the top-10 girls. We focused mainly on doubles because most of our top kids play a lot of tennis — they take lessons, they play in tournaments, and that sort of thing, but they don’t play very much doubles. And so we’re trying to show them that doubles is more than two singles players sharing a court.”

Like every other sport, the tennis teams are paying close attention to the 25 “contact days” allowed between players and coaches by the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

“The rest of summer there will be one of the coaches here (at Washington Park) basically Monday through Thursday from 7 to 9 in the evening,” Blosser said. “One of us will be here and kids are welcome to come over and hit. We just have to keep track of who does what and how many times we see our kids so we don’t exceed their 25 days.”

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