By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The players were smaller, the courts were smaller and the nets were lower but there was some high quality tennis being played at Memorial Park Thursday night.
The tennis celebration for the children from six local communities was made possible by the Lakes Region Tennis Association, the United State Tennis Association of New England and some generous local sponsors who made it possible for children from ages 5 to 14 to play tennis twice a week at local courts with all of the coaching and equipment provided.
Mike and Amber Gagnon and Hazel Gaudette from Laconia were at Memorial Park to watch their children play. Likely the youngest ones in the crowd, for a while the three of them had a court to themselves but willingly shared when the program expanded to four courts.
"They're excited about this," said Gaudette. "On days without tennis, they wanted to play anyway."
Jennifer Tyrrell of Franklin's three children have been in the program for two years. Last year was Franklin's first year with the LRTA program.
"We had coach Andrew (Caulfield)," she said. "He needs to coach everybody."
Caulfield is from Gilford, led the Gilford High School tennis team there to three state championships, graduated as class president in 2015 and now attends UNH.
Guylaine Ivester of Franklin said the program has been wonderful for her whole family. Her boys played in the final round robin against two Laconia girls and said the whole family is playing tennis four nights a week at Odell Park.
"My husband is happy he has future tennis players," she said.
She said that one of the things she likes about tennis is that is children can be "part of a team without getting lost in the team."
"For us it's going very well," said Gilford Parks and Recreation Director Herb Greene.
The Gilford portion of the program saw 61 young athletes participate in the six-week program.
"To offer free lessons is not something we would be able to do," said Greene. "Financially we could not maintain a program of that size."
Laconia Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Dunleavy echoed Greene.
"Without all of the volunteers, coaches and equipment we would not be able to support this program," he said.
What's exciting to Dunleavy is that it seems that largely because of this program and the LRTA, local interest in tennis has grown. His department recently did some key repairs at the Memorial Park courts and the City Council recently approved money to completely redo the Leavitt Park tennis courts.
"The thing about tennis is that it can be an affordable option for kids who don't have a lot of money," he said. "It's like basketball in that regard."
Head coach and key proponent of the LRTA Kamal Gosine, said this past summer has been the best he's seen yet.
"It's getting bigger and bigger," he said, noting that his employer, MB Tractor and Equipment allows him to work his schedule around the games. He said his truck is filled with tennis equipment. "We started out with nothing and now we're running five programs for six communities."
"What we want to do is to encourage tennis," he said, adding that one of the goals of LRTA and the USTA is to encourage high schools to include more tennis programs in their athletic schedules.
Kamal also noted that some hugely successful professional tennis players have earned healthy scholarships for college for playing tennis.
Although the program is over for this year, Kamal said there are established programs for next year in Laconia, Gilford, Meredith, Tilton, Northfield and Franklin. He hopes to expand it into a couple more towns next year.
Coach Kamal Gosine congratulates Manuela Kemp and Madeline Mousseau after winning the finals during the LRTA celebration evening bringing together players from Laconia, Gilford, Tilton/Northfield, Franklin and Meredith at Memorial Park on Thursday evening. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Emily Hansen was one of the recipients of the "Good Sportsmanship" award during the final evening of LRTA lessons combining the towns of Laconia, Gilford, Tilton/Northfield, Franklin and Meredith at Memorial Park on Thursday evening. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 737