Lytton Park club backhands sport’s elitist stereotype
“This is not your parent’s tennis camp.”
The phrase may sound controversial coming from the mouth of Lytton Park Tennis Camp director and founder Shawn Reynolds.
But it’s quite the contrary.
Reynolds came to Toronto from Sudbury five years ago looking to pursue an acting career. After being schooled at Second City, he found his acting skills were better suited to teaching the sport he played growing up.
And to entertain young minds more focused on Wii and iPhones.
“When I was a kid, it was about hitting 10,000 balls and not really understanding why,” he said. “With us we’re playing all these games and the kids aren’t even realizing they’re learning.”
Reynolds is teaching tennis to kids in new ways to dispel an elitist stigma attached to racket club community.
“To me, four to six hours of tennis with 4- to 10-year-olds, they’re going to hate it, but if you break it up with a little soccer or ultimate Frisbee and . . . they’re going back and forth, it’s icing on the cake during the day,” he said. “I’m teaching kids how to throw a Frisbee and that’s the exact same movement as a backhand.”
Kim Simmons, whose son Tyler, 10, and daughter Elle, 8, are registered in the camp, says camp made her kids dream of becoming the next Andre Agassi and Martina Hingis.
“We have a lot of trouble getting my son specifically into any sport,” she said. “He seems to try them and give up very quickly.
“He looks like he’d be a very athletic child but when it comes down to playing the sport, because he hasn’t yet learned that practise makes perfect, he tends to give up very quickly.”
The boost of confidence has Tyler challenging everyone around him to a couple of sets on the clay.
“He’s even told my husband, who is an excellent tennis player, that he thinks he can even beat him at a game,” Simmons said. “Which is very cute because he’s only played five times in total.
Daughter Elle enjoyed the experience too.
“She said, ‘Mommy I wasn’t so good at it, but there’s always someone telling me how great I was’.”
Calling Havergal College, James Gardens Tennis Club and Gwendolen Park home for the summer camp, Reynolds’ organization does run throughout the year in after-school programs in the GTA.
Along with their summer camps, Lytton Park Tennis Club has a joint program with the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario to get young cancer patients moving without risk of injuring themselves.
“POGO is amazing in one way because there aren’t many sports you can do low-impact while a kid is battling cancer,” Reynolds said. “Tennis is that sport.
“Their heart is still moving, they’re still feeling like other kids out there.”