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HTA starts youth development programs

Kids take turns hitting a forehand ground stroke out of the air using a Hit Zone machine that floats a special foam tennis ball on a cushion of air that can be adjusted for height. Submitted photo

The all-volunteer Hudson Tennis Association just completed its first youth development tennis camp, called the "Little Pro" Tennis Camp, on Saturday, July 28. For eight Saturdays in June and July, the HTA adult volunteers could be found setting up equipment and stations early for the kids, getting ready for them to start at 9 a.m. on the eight tennis courts at Hudson High School.

HTA Board members Jeremy Palm and Mary Ellen Akan, took the lead in organizing three to five adult volunteers to lead each of the eight sessions for the 22 kids who registered to learn more about the game of tennis. Working closely with the United States Tennis Association, USTA Northern was instrumental in providing the protocol for the parent-organized play program for the Hudson Tennis Association.

"The curriculum that USTA lays out is great," Palm said. "The games and activities are perfectly suited for the youth, who really start to love the game of tennis and make them want to come back again next week. USTA was also great in providing mini tennis rackets that were provided to all the kids who registered for the program. The 21-inch mini tennis rackets were shorter and light enough for the smallest of the kids to be able to handle without being intimidated by an adult, full-sized, heavier racket. The kids had a blast, and so did all of us as instructors and coaches."

The HTA "Little Pro" Tennis Camp focused on youth between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. The idea was simple, to instill a passion and love for the game of tennis with the kids, many of whom have never played the game before.

"Almost every other sport you can think of has really great youth development programs: soccer, hockey, football, baseball, and softball just to name a few," HTA president, John Knutson said. "Tennis didn't have any youth development opportunities. The HTA is trying to change that. We'd like to promote the sport of tennis to both genders, of all ages and all abilities."

Each Saturday morning session started with a brief dynamic warm-up activity to get the kids moving and burn off a little energy. Then the group would be split by age and abilities and spend time with a coach, to keep the player to coach ratio in the four- or five-to-one ratio.

One of the favorite stations during the hour-long sessions was the "Hit Zone" devices. The Hit Zone machines would float a special foam tennis ball on a cushion of air that could be adjusted for height. The player would put a ball on the blowing current of air, then step back and hit either a forehand or backhand groundstroke with the foam ball into the fence, and then retrieve the ball and get back in line.

On the last day of the camp on July 28, all the participants received graduation certificates created by volunteers Terry and Barb Domino, along with healthy snacks. The volunteers who taught the sessions included Terry and Barb Domino, Palm, Akan, Lisa Wiebusch and Knutson.

The Hudson Tennis Association meets on the third Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the offices of Catalyst Sports Medicine. Anyone of any age and any ability who wishes to be part of expanding the sport of tennis for others is welcome. In the future, the HTA would like to expand youth development programs, and programs for adults including seniors.

For more information on the HTA, visit:, Or contact Knutson at or by calling 651-210-7858.

Bob Burrows

Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.

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