To play all kids need is a pair of sneakers and a good racket
There’s a lot of racket planned for this summer, just not of the noise variety.
Camp director Shawn Reynolds is experiencing an overwhelming growth with his Lytton Park Tennis Camps and he says it’s because of two hot topics in the sports world: concussions and Milos Raonic.
The two are mutually exclusive, but parents concerned about physical contact sports have been drawn to the low-impact court activity, Reynolds says.
And having a Canadian — Raonic — ranked 28th on the ATP Tour doesn’t hurt business either.
“Milos is having so much success as a tennis player so many parents are talking, ‘Oh my kid’s four or five years old and he’s got a real good swing — do you think he’s got a good shot’?” Reynolds said.
Still, he doesn’t want folks to think their children are the next Rafael Nadal or Venus Williams while taking the court at James Gardens, Gwendolen Park, Havergal College or Crescent School.
“What parents have to realize is 99 percent of the people who come through my program — which is several thousand at this point — will never make a penny off tennis,” he said.
What Lytton Park Tennis Camps provides kids is accessibility to a sport that Reynolds says is often stigmatized as being elitist.
“Unfortunately tennis has always had this reputation of being a really expensive sport, not accessible to everybody,” he said, adding he wants to debunk that misconception.
He draws from his own experience. Sudbury-raised, Reynolds is one of three boys brought up by a miner and stay-at-home mom.
He came to Toronto to become an actor, but six years ago switched to teaching tennis for kids wanting to learn and have fun while doing so.
Camp games like skeleton, jailbreak, Frisbee and baseball-tennis provide a needed olio to kids ages 4–16. At the same time, Reynolds says the traditional tennis swings are taught.
“All these sports are the same, you can only do so many movements with your arms and legs,” he said.
His hard work has paid off as he has earned himself the role of tennis spokesperson with Participaction, an organization that encourages Canadians to be more active through sport.
He notes his spring and summer camps help kids stay active and help keep Type 2 diabetes at bay.
Again, he associates Participaction’s interest to Raonic.
“If you look at Milos and what he did against (Andy) Roddick and what he’s been doing recently by being ranked so high, it really invigorates me,” he said, adding he’d love to see tennis take on the popularity of soccer.
“Anybody with a ball and racket can just play.”
That magic happens when parents get involved, too.
“The great thing is at the end of a lesson, I’ll tell the parents, ‘Hey listen, get on the court, you’re a target for your kids’,” he said. “We’ll use the foam balls obviously so the parents won’t get hurt.
“If you can create a moment between a parent and a child, that’s kind of awesome,” he added. “I just feel tennis can bring a family together.”