CELEBRATE NET GENERATION COACH DEE MAYNARD
My name is Dee Maynard, and I live in Shelbyville, Ky., which is about 30 miles outside Louisville. I started playing tennis about 20 years ago when I turned 50 and decided it was time to learn a new sport. I am an intermediate player who enjoys girl trips around the southern states when our teams have the good fortunate to go to sectionals.
In addition to playing tennis, I have multiple connections within the sport, all as a volunteer.
For 15 years, I have coordinated the tennis programs — including clinics and leagues — for the Shelby County Parks. On average we serve 90 recreational players, ages 5 to 75, a year. In 2012 I became a founding board member of the Louisville Area 10 and Under Tennis Association (LOU10U). I personally coordinate all our grant programs which reach more than 2,000 10U players in economically disadvantaged areas of Louisville each year. LOU10U also serves more than 1,000 kids a year with fee-based after-school programs and summer parks programs.
I am not a certified coach, but thanks to Net Generation’s “Red Ball” curriculum, this year I have been in the gyms and on the basketball courts, popping up nets and providing instruction to more than 100 underserved kids in six different programs who otherwise would never have the chance to play. A shout out goes to Karen Vermillion, a Shelbyville elementary school PE teacher, who invited us to join her at 7:15 a.m. to offer tennis camp to the kids who ride buses and can’t stay for after-school programs due to lack of transportation.
Net Generation has impacted our LOU10U tennis programs in many ways. Net Generation and Team Challenges give us a central location to list all our programs which is easy use. All of our board members, coaching staff and community partners — including schools and community centers — can readily access the listings which have all the program information in a clear, concise format. It also puts all our coaches on the same page. LOU10U offered 69 programs in 2018. Our core group of 20-plus coaches range from Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) certified pros, to high school students who have completed 10U PTR training, to tennis players like myself. The “Red Ball” curriculum has finally given us a tool that gets all our coaches on the same page, because it is easy to understand, fun to use and gets kids playing. With all the coaches on the same page, our “for fun” recreational tournaments and leagues are far more competitive, because kids registered in different programs are now progressing at similar rates. Please note, the tablets the coaches received really helped to get them using the curriculum.
Net Generation also makes for happier players. On the very first day of a program this fall, 9-year-old Brian looked up at me and said, “My dad says you can’t play tennis in a gym. I want to play real tennis over a net.” My response was, “Let’s see what happens if we work real hard.” On the fourth day, Brian was ecstatic when he and his partner hit six balls in a row over the net. “We did it! We are playing real tennis.” Brian may have been ecstatic, but the teacher at his school matched his enthusiasm when she received her equipment package. In fact, the one program we did as a trial with her last spring turned into two summer neighborhood-based programs, and three more school programs this fall. We like that math: One becomes six.
My favorite part of Net Generation is the curriculum, because it results in more accomplishments per participant than traditional programs, and that creates even more excitement. Let me give you an example. Last spring, our local high school coach, Casey Page, registered as a provider and got an equipment kit (and a pair of shoes for himself). We lent him some pop-up nets, and he taught his students the basics of tennis in the gym using red balls. The school has 75-minute class periods, so he then got his CDL so he could drive a bus and brought the students to the tennis courts where we met them for several sessions over a three-week period. The kids spent one class transitioning to yellow balls and then they were playing matches. But here is the best part. This summer, kids from the class were at the courts playing for fun on their own. They had gone to yard sales and picked up racquets. The best part of coaching youth players is the unabashed excitement that comes with accomplishment.
Now, we ask our coaches to use the Net Generation curriculum in all our LOU10U programs. Do they? My personal opinion is that it is still a mixed bag. Our biggest challenge is with the PTR-certified coaches of our fee-based programs who also coach at clubs who say, “The parents are paying and expect more.” My counter to that is the example of a third-grade player I had in an after-school program who told me, “I took lessons with an adult, and I sure learned more and had more fun here.” The young lady had a picture-perfect forehand but could not drop hit a ball when we started.
The LOU10U vision is: “Every child in the Greater Louisville area has the opportunity to play tennis — a lifetime sport.” Net Generation has more children playing tennis as they see it, rallying over the net with a peer, quicker than any other program we have used.
We are looking forward to the day that Net Generation provides us with enhanced marketing tools to reach non-tennis-playing parents. Just as we now have access to banners and flyers, we need materials and techniques we can use on social media and to pass on to partner organizations such as schools to use on their websites to promote our programs.
We also hope parents, and particularly non-tennis-playing parents, use the Net Generation website as a tool to access programs for their children. And we would like to be able to easily register recreational program participation as an extension of our program listings. The Team Challenge Pilots have spoiled us with the ease of reporting. For the first time we have been able to accurately report the number of players we are serving, and we have saved more than $8,000 in registration fees. Those savings directly translate into being able to provide even more kids with programs so they can experience tennis – the best lifetime sport.