LACONIA — For three years in Laconia and two in Franklin, the Lakes Region Tennis Association has been bringing free tennis lessons to children with an interest in learning.
This year, assisted by some key local sponsors like MB Tractor and Grappone Auto Group, and a $10,000 grant from the United States Tennis Association, the program is expanding to Gilford, Tilton and Meredith.
"I wanted to start giving back," said founder Robert Ronstadt, who not only coaches but coordinates all of the other volunteer coaches. "Tennis has given me so much in my life. It's such a wonderful game that can be played one's whole life."
The LRTA program employs a reasonably new way of teaching tennis by providing smaller children with smaller racquets and, in some cases, larger and lower-compression tennis balls. Ronstadt said that with some of the smaller children they use pop-up nets and smaller courts to help perfect their strokes.
He said the new way of teaching tennis to very young people began in Europe and was quickly adopted in the United States.
One of its key benefits, said Ronstadt, is that by working with the Laconia Boys and Girls Club, tennis can be taught year-round to younger people by setting up the pop-up nets inside the gymnasium.
"This program has grown far faster than we thought it would," said Ronstadt, thanking Tim James, a Laconia resident and president of the LRTA who personally donated $10,000 to the program and who is one of the volunteer coaches.
Ronstadt said that the program has grown so fast that its needs volunteers to help with the coaching. He encouraged any high school or college tennis players who happen to be in the Lakes Region for the summer to contact any of the parks and recreation departments for more information on how they could assist the program.
He said individual parks and recreation departments have tennis programs but they charge for them. Because of the LRTA grants and area fundraising, all parents need to provide for their children is a pair of sneakers.
Although there are only five sets of tennis courts in the area, children from Belmont, Alton and Gilmanton can play in either Laconia, Gilford or Tilton, while children from Center Harbor, New Hampton and Sanbornton can play in either Laconia or Tilton.
In Laconia, the courts are at Memorial Field, the Tilton School is letting the program use their courts for Tilton's program, the Meredith tennis courts are at Prescott Park, the Gilford tennis courts are in Gilford Village, and Franklin's tennis courts are in Odell Park.
Parents of interested children are asked to call the parks and recreation department where their child wants to play.
The Lakes Region Tennis Association is underwriting free tennis lessons this summer in Franklin, Gilford, Laconia, Meredith, and Tilton for a limited number of children and adults. Participants from adjoining towns can also enroll if space permits. Call your local Parks & Rec Department to sign up today. Numbers and locations are listed below.
Each program meets twice a week, beginning the week of June 27 and runs through Aug. 8.
• Franklin Parks & Rec, Krystal Alpers 934-2118 Odell Park at 5 and 6 p.m.
• Sanbornton – call Franklin Recreation 934-2118 Odell Park
• Gilford Parks & Rec, Herb Greene 527-4722 Town Courts at 5 and 6 p.m.
• Alton – call Gilford Parks & Rec 527-4722 Town Courts
• Laconia Parks & Rec, Amy Lovisek 524-5046 Memorial Park at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.
• Belmont, Gilmanton – call Laconia 520-0447 Memorial Park
• Meredith Parks & Rec, Vince Choiniere 279-8197 Town Courts at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.
• New Hampton, call Meredith 279-8197 Town Courts
• Tilton Northfield Recreation 286-8653 Tilton School at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.
Children warm up for a lesson last year. (Courtesy photo)
Pop-up nets make it easy to set up games for children. (Courtesy Photo)
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