Ambassadors Prep Downsizes for Tennis Students
By Jordan Godwin
The Daily News
Published July 22, 2011
GALVESTON — For most beginning tennis players, the size of the court initially can seem daunting.
The boundary lines seem too far away or too close, and it’s a difficult sport to suddenly pick up, especially for young children. But Ambassadors Preparatory Academy in Galveston has installed a program designed to help its students learn the game the right way.
“We see tennis as more than just a sport but an academic portal that can help our students bridge the gap between playing and learning,” said Dr. Patricia Williams, principal of the academy. “Tennis has become part of our culture here.”
On Thursday, the younger students in Ambassadors Prep’s summer enrichment program, 11 and younger, thrived on specially designed tennis courts. This is the first week the children have been able to play on the newly installed, half-sized sideways tennis courts. As part of the Quick Start tennis program, the students play on smaller courts with smaller rackets and tennis balls that bounce at a slower speed.
Williams was sold on the idea to promote tennis at the academy by longtime Galveston resident and tennis aficionado Barbara Sasser. In the summer of 2009, Sasser was helping clean up Hurricane Ike damage when she came across uneven concrete slabs that had been tennis courts long ago.
Through Sasser’s contacts and financial support from the Moody Methodist Permanent Endowment Fund and the Jamail Galveston Foundation, those slabs have been transformed into first-class tennis courts for players of all ages.
As part of the tennis push, Williams hired certified tennis instructor and former nationally ranked player Larry Thomas to guide the program. Also a certified teacher, Thomas said he strives to carry out Williams’ vision of an academically-driven tennis lesson.
“It doesn’t matter what subject it is, you can teach it on a tennis court,” Thomas said. “The kids learn so much about life through the etiquette, concentration and patience it takes to play tennis, and sometimes they don’t even realize it’s happening. The biggest reward of my job is seeing that light finally turn on.”
One young student spent almost half an hour Thursday repeatedly hitting a ball off a wall to herself. When she finally achieved a back-and-forth volley that lasted more than three strokes, she looked at Williams, Sasser and Thomas with a huge grin to see if they had seen it.
“Knowing how to focus is such an important component in academics, and this game has helped them tremendously,” Williams said. “But most importantly, they have all fallen in love with it.”