Coach Bob Rondstat looks on while Cole practices his forehand at the tennis club Nov. 16 with the Laconia Boys and Girls Club. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA – The five-year old program for teaching tennis to underserved youths in the area has been chosen to receive the United States Tennis Association New England Community Tennis Association of the Year Award.
The Lakes Region Tennis Association is now able to offer free tennis lessons, complete with age-appropriate equipment like lower nets, lighter racquets and larger, softer tennis balls, to children through their Parks and Recreation Departments.
Last summer, 247 children participated in programs in Gilford Village, Laconia, Franklin, Tilton and Meredith. Children without tennis courts in their immediate communities were allowed to play in the nearest community to them.
"First, on behalf of our entire organization, I need to thank the USTA for this wonderful award," said President Robert Ronstadt. "Second, LRTA's programs are only possible because of the commitments made by our coaches, volunteers, our board, many donors, and our sponsors."
Ronstadt said that nearly 40 adults from various communities helped as coaches and more are welcome.
The program began five years ago and was financially charged by a $10,000 donation from Tim James, a Laconia resident who played tennis in Gilford in the early 1980s.
With that money, the LRTA was able to leverage grants and expand its program from Laconia and Gilford to other communities.
This year, the LRTA decided to become a National Junior Tennis & Learning chapter of the USTA, which is a program that joins tennis with learning programs conducted largely through the Boys and Girls Club of New Hampshire.
The expansion included more than tennis, said Chris Emond who is the director of the Boys & Girls Club of Central New Hampshire. It includes an education component where students from the ages of about 6 to 10 who come to the Boys & Girls Club, work with the adults on education projects that cam be anything to some extra help with home work, to a game of chess, reading, communication, physics, geometry and ethics.
After an hour of education, the children and the adult go to a different room, in Laconia its upstairs gymnasium, to play tennis.
Called Advantage Kids, Ronstadt said he expects the program to expand to middle schoolers next year. The board learned on Thursday that the Advantage Kids will continue during the winter session in Laconia and will expand to the Concord Boys and Girls Club.
"Everyone on our board wants to see more and stronger high school programs," said Ronstadt. "But that wont happen until we have robust programs at the elementary, and especially middle school level. It also won't happen without talented tennis and educational coaches."
Anyone who wishes to contribute or assist should contact Dr. Robert Ronstadt at email@example.com.