Group aims to get sport's numbers up

Baltimore Tennis Patrons take up challenge of enticing locals to play

May 09, 2000|By Brent Jones | By Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

One of the tasks Lynn Morrell and her fellow organizers of the Baltimore Tennis Patrons USA Media Challenge wanted participants to partake in yesterday was something that can't be found everywhere.

In fact, since the item is so new, it can hardly be found at all.

All of the media in attendance got a chance to hit a tennis ball on the Accu-Hit 2000, an apparatus the size of a baseball tee. It keeps the ball in place while the leg goes back and forth, allowing time for a player to change positions, or swings.

It is part of the USA Tennis Pathway Program, which caters to people as young as 6 and serves more than 2,000 at 39 community sites in Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties.

The group's mission is to get the numbers up in tennis, especially in Baltimore and the surrounding counties, by making the game less frustrating for beginners, while increasing overall tennis knowledge.

To get more students involved, the Baltimore Tennis Patrons has formed partnerships with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

"Our biggest challenge is to let people know that tennis is in their backyard," said Clinton Kelly, president of the Baltimore Tennis Patrons. "It's acceptable. It's affordable. They can enjoy it on public courts all over the area. There are more underutilized public tennis courts per capita here with maybe the exception of California and Florida."

The Baltimore Tennis Patrons program is the only one licensed to use the Accu-Hit 2000.

"We use that in all of our classes to get the feel of the stroke, positioning, rhythm and timing," Morrell said. "It builds a feel for the perfect stroke. Once you get the feel for the perfect stroke, then you can go to a live ball."

For the novice, it provides a challenge. For the more advanced, it provides a release from having to crank shots off a wall in order to stay sharp when a partner is unavailable.

It allows a player to clearly see where the racket is striking the ball and to see how much spin is on the ball.

"This is a brand-new teaching apparatus," Morrell said. "We use those in all of our classes."

Held at the Pikesville Hilton, the event showcased some of the learning techniques in the program's beginning and intermediate classes.

It was held for the first time, and Morrell said she felt it was well attended. Three television stations sent representatives, as well as sports radio voice Stan Charles.

Morrell hopes the media will get the word out about the program, which has more than doubled the number of participants since last year.

"This turned out even better than we thought it would," Kelly said. "People showed up on time. It was organized. And I think everybody had a good time."

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