With snow on the ground and single-digit temperatures in the air, tennis is not foremost on the mind of most Comox Valley residents.
But the game is never far from the thoughts of Brenda Dean.
Building off a highly successful team tennis pilot project for Tennis Canada last year, Dean already has plans for bigger and better things in 2017.
“I started last year with eight children. There was over 80 children this summer. It was huge. It went over so well I had to add extra programming,” said the Building Tennis Community Champion for Tennis Canada, who introduced the program through local elementary schools.
In an earlier interview, Dean said, “Most kids play on sports teams. They develop their friendships and good competition.
“Typically with tennis what happens is kids get bogged down in lessons. With team tennis there’s 15 to 20 minutes of instruction and warm-up, then it moves right into (an hour of) play.”
There are four to six players on a team and they are ranked so that they play their opposite number from the other team.
There is no experience necessary. Getting the ball over the net and having fun is the object. Tennis Canada notes that by competing on a team, the pressure of winning or losing becomes less for the individual. Rather, every player does his or her best to contribute to the team’s success and have fun.
Dean began the program using the Tennis Canada template but quickly discovered it didn’t meet her local community’s needs. “I wasn’t happy with the pilot project outcome in January. I felt (the players) needed a bit more instruction and play,” Dean explained.
“Tennis Canada wanted us to have six let’s say 11-and-12 year olds, then six 9-and-10s. Are you kidding me? So what I did instead, I built a team of all age groups. I had the older kids helping out the younger kids. They were part of the team. We had playoffs and awards,” Dean said.
“One of the highlights of the summer was when I was announcing playoffs. Two kids ran off the court and told their parents to cancel the camping trip – they didn’t want to miss the playoffs.”
The program got a big boost after Dean met with Comox Valley Tennis Club junior director Peter Hagberg. “We approached the club to start a team tennis program. It was originally going to be a maximum of 16 participants for three four-week programs, but it grew into a 32-kids program, with additional sessions added to meet the demand,” said Dean.
“We offered team tennis May through September, and participants brought their friends to play. It was so rewarding. I can’t tell you how pleased I am. The tennis club kept the fees reasonable and that allowed me to mentor other young people to grow coaches.”
Two of those young coaches, Jaylene Kuo and Matt Teasdale, received Greg Fox Memorial Tennis Bursaries, which Dean says was all part of a hugely rewarding year for her in furthering the sport in the Valley.
The Comox Valley’s response to Dean’s team tennis format worked so well that Tennis Canada asked Dean for her template. Citing positive feedback from Alan Ma of Tennis Canada and Jeannie Rohr of Tennis BC, Dean said, “They were thrilled with it.”
A new team tennis indoor session starts January at the Comox Community Centre. “The last one, I had half the gym and one day. Now I’ve got the full gym and twice a week,” said Dean.
“The children in the Comox Valley need to be able to choose tennis as their sport, and they can’t choose it without an indoor facility,” said Dean, a driving force with the North Island Regional Tennis Society whose mission is to establish an indoor tennis facility in the region.
Dean said several options are under consideration at the moment, with at least two of them looking promising. She said more details would be forthcoming in the new year.
Dean, owner of In Your Court Tennis and Fitness Academy, was instrumental in the Comox Valley being named Tennis Canada’s 2013 Tennis Friendly Community of the Year. In 2015 she received a Sport BC President’s Award for her dedication, energy and commitment to the development of tennis.
For more information on team tennis, contact Dean at 250-898-4381.