Matt Iwersen loves tennis so much that one of the most rewarding aspects of the game for him is to see kids stick with it and become a whole lot better through sheer focus and hard, enthusiastic training.
“It’s hard for me to tell a kid he or she should find another sport,” says Iwersen, the director of tennis and assistant manager at the Bellingham Training and Tennis Club.
Indeed, the former San Jose State University standout has seen a large proportion of local high school stars go through the numerous clinics and “Slammers” summers camps he has overseen.
Boys and girls 5 years old through high school age can participate in one of the four-day “Slammers” camps at Bellingham High School, the first of which this year will be for beginners 5-8 (called Li’l Slammers) on June 25-28 from 10 a.m. to noon each day.
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“What we hope all kids will learn is that tennis really is a lifetime sport,” Iwersen said. “Our coaching philosophy and emphasis is geared toward sharing the love of the game.”
The kids learn from staffers T.J. Tipton and Griffin Wood, both certified to teach the game by the U.S. Pro Tennis Association. Also always on hand are several local high school players.
At the Slammers camps, tennis is far from fast serves and backline shots.
“… Kids bring home some of the more subtle and valuable life lessons that come from playing tennis,” Iwersen says. “We always emphasize tennis etiquette, good sportsmanship, integrity, best effort and fun.”
On a typical camp day, the stress is on getting to know each other, rally skills and athletic development, small group fundamentals work and big group activities.
Iwersen says tennis instruction is carried on with a ratio of six to eight players for each coach.
The first day of each camp is especially important, since players are grouped on different courts after an evaluation during warm-ups and rally sessions. That way, more advanced players do not overwhelm inexperienced players as they learn from each other and the coaches.
“We make this organization of groups because we have found the players have more fun and learn more quickly when they are playing with their peers,” Iwersen says. “During the course of camp, it’s possible that kids will move up group levels – that’s what we want. No matter what group level, we make sure each child feels equally valued and appreciated.”
Each participant must file a form of approval from a parent or guardian (forms can be downloaded at the club’s web site, BeTrainingTennis.com). Campers are given a list of what needs to be brought and worn each day.
Iwersen estimates that about three-quarters of campers have at least some tennis experience, while the rest are “tennis rookies.”
The camps are ideal preparation for high school athletes who want to turn out for tennis for the first time.
Another camp for kids 5-8 will be held Aug. 6-9. For players 8-12, the beginners/intermediate camp will be July 9-12. Middle school beginners/intermediate camps will be July 16-19 and July 30-Aug. 2.
Middle school and high school standouts will participate in the competitive juniors camp July 23-26.
In a run-up to the high school boys season in the fall, varsity boys and JV boys can participate in separate camps Aug. 13-16.
Costs are $99 for kids 5-8, and $179 for other camps except the competitive juniors, which runs six hours each day and is $359.