By Randy Dela Cruz, Sports Editor, Ho’okele
This summer, the folks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Youth Sports division raised the bar when it came to providing quality, fun-filled youth sports camps for military families.
It’s not always easy to balance skill-enhancing instruction that keeps the focus on fun, but whether it has been basketball, soccer or even volleyball, MWR Youth has managed to keep laughter and learning together.
From July 14-18, MWR Youth continued to work their magic in giving kids from ages 5-16 a swinging time at the summer youth tennis camp, which was held at Wentworth Tennis Facility, JBPHH.
“At summer camps, since they’re mostly beginners, we want to introduce the correct fundamentals of the game,” said camp director David Chang. “But what’s more important, while they’re learning this, have fun. Fun is what drives the player to want to be out here. So it’s correct learning, correct fundamentals, and having the maximum amount of fun while they’re doing it.”
While the lessons were progressive and became more challenging with each succeeding day, Chang and his crew of coaches, that included retired Navy Chief Carl Williams, made sure that smiles were evident on each child throughout the camp.
Williams said that the kids started off with tennis safety and then moved on to learn different strokes and conditioning before putting it all together in matches by the end of the week.
“We moved from introduction into the five strokes,” said Williams who oversaw ages from 8-9. “We work on forehand, backhand, overhead, volley and serve. Then at the end of each day, we do cardio tennis where we play music and let them run around and get some exercise.”
Williams said that on the first day, they worked on two strokes, added one-on-one games by the second day, but by the fourth and fifth day, they did matches, scoring and even strategy.
As any adult can attest to, getting a young audience, even a captive one, to pay attention can be quite challenging.
However, Chang said that more than 30 years of teaching tennis to youth has taught him the key to keeping children focused.
“The key part, while they’re learning particular drills, is to turn it into a fun game,” he admitted.
“What we want is correct fundamentals, while they’re playing a fun game. That’s the trick.”
Chang even extends the concept of fun to the equipment that he uses in each progressive lesson of the camp.
From smaller size racquets to accommodate younger players to various colored tennis balls, Chang makes each learning experience a memorable one.
“For the younger kids, the racquets have to be smaller so it’s easy to maneuver,” he said. “Any piece of equipment, we’ve made it age appropriate. So they actually learn a lot faster.”
Further, Chang said, each task is also made age appropriate.
“Older kids can start from further back because they have more control and more power,” he pointed out. “Younger kids, you have to start from further up because they have less control and less power.”
No matter what lesson or skill Chang said he is trying to teach, it always comes back to making it fun for the kids.
Chang acknowledged that no matter how many years he’s been teaching tennis, it’s fun for him, too.
“I think for a junior coach, you have to enjoy being with kids,” he said. “I always enjoy being with kids. I have two of my own.”