It may look a little chaotic, but then again, what fun isn’t?
Children are running in all directions, tennis balls are flying through the air, coaches are passing out water and freshly picked plums to help fight the summer heat. There are smiles everywhere.
The Thursday afternoon tennis class is one of many offered throughout Greater Victoria by the Society for Kids at Tennis, a non-profit dedicated to giving all youth a chance to get some exercise, socialize and learn the game of tennis.
To do this, KATS is committed to removing any and all financial barriers to the sport, and also to making tennis accessible to all children, regardless of athletic ability and especially regardless of any disabilities they may have.
With this mandate, since 2014, KATS has delivered over 2,500 hours of classes to 3,795 children, ranging in ages from five to 19 years old.
With age and size appropriate racquets, balls, nets and courts, the diverse group of youth involved in the program run through basic skills practice and light rallying with the Tennis Canada certified instructors and volunteers running the lesson. Rather than run drills, the group mostly plays games that teach through fun rather than repetition.
The approach allows for early successes for the youth, who learn to love the game and develop their own confidence with it before worrying about whether they’re any good at it or not. Some really take to the sport itself, others seem more interested in socializing and just being outside. Organizers say that’s the whole idea.
“We do everything we can to help them develop confidence,” said founder Sy Silverberg. “That’s all we need, to get them having fun, not walking off the court feeling frustrated. Once we get them having fun, they’re hooked.”
KATS works with 36 partner organizations to deliver its programs, including the City of Victoria, three municipal recreation centres, seven community centres, 15 low-income neighbourhood schools and 10 social services organizations. The remarkable growth of KATS in such a short period is a testament to the need for such a program. It is the only one in Western Canada and is one of just three such programs in all of Canada.
To learn more about Society for Kids at Tennis visit: http://kidsattennis.ca/.
And watch a Victoria Foundation video of a visit to a Kids at Tennis class here.