Better strokes for different folks

When you think about Yukon sports, tennis probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. But Tennis Yukon is doing what it can to change…

When you think about Yukon sports, tennis probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind.

But Tennis Yukon is doing what it can to change that.

To strengthen the sport’s presence in the territory, the organization has recruited Gerry Macken, a pro with 35 years experience.

He has come to Whitehorse from Victoria to run junior clinics and to certify instructors.

“We run courses to certify pros to be coaches and the reason it’s done that way is to make it a consistent feature throughout the country,” said Macken of the certification course.

“I’m happy to come up and run camps for the kids and develop programs and give other coaches an opportunity to see how to continue the process.”

Besides an indoor tennis centre, a larger pool of players is needed to hone skills through greater competition.

It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, said Macken.

 “The numbers are so small that the depth of the competition is so slim that you’d have to go over to Alaska, you’d have to come down to BC to find other places to get a larger draw to be able to challenge the kids to actually grow to each level that they have to grow to,” said Macken.

“In terms of being able to accelerate to the top level of the nation, there’s just not enough people here to give yourself the competition and the programs to justify it.

“I guess the biggest thing we need here is an indoor tennis centre. I think it’s one of those things: you build it and they will come.”

Despite these setbacks, Macken has confidence in Whitehorse’s youth, in whom he sees plenty of potential.

“One thing I found, though, is the kids in the North are as athletic or more athletic than kids in the rest of the country. It’s probably because they’re so diverse; they play all the different sports.”

“We’re thrilled,” said Stacey Lewis, president of Tennis Yukon, who arranged for Macken’s visit.

“Tennis Yukon just started last fall and the people that have come together to start Tennis Yukon are all coming from tennis backgrounds. But, in more recent times, we’ve been frustrated that living up here hasn’t worked out with tennis, which has been a big part of our lives.

“We’ve got these beautiful courts,” added Lewis, speaking of the courts located next to the curling club where the clinics are taking place.

“But there’s been no programming or organization around it, so I went down and did the certification course last fall and we were running indoor lessons inside the college gym through the winter.

“The other coaches, their certification had lapsed or expired — so, for us, having Gerry up here was a huge plus because we could take care of getting three or four people certified at once rather than sending people on various trip down South.”

If you are interested in attending this coming week’s classes or enrolling your kids, Lewis can be contacted at 393 2621 or at tennisyukon@mac.com.

With the summer break beginning next week for elementary schools, courses are starting at 11 a.m. Monday to Friday. The 10 hours of instruction costs $150.

“I would bet that there’s kids in the city that are very good athletes and, with very little effort, they could excel above and beyond some of the other kids who have already been playing on a one- or two-, three- year basis, just because of the athletic ability,” said Macken.

“And if they’re learning in a progressive way, which is the way we teach, learning to have little successes along the way … I think you’d be amazed by how many great tennis players there are in the city.”

For those who are just looking for a friendly game, a summer drop-in schedule has been made for the courts.

Starting at 5:30 p.m., players can drop by to play mixed doubles on Monday, play with players of intermediate and advanced levels Tuesday and beginners Wednesday. Juniors looking for a game can come by Thursday.