Ask anyone involved in organized sport about the best practices in keeping people involved and they will probably have a similar answer: grow the grassroots.
The Yellowknife Tennis Club did its best to plant the seeds this past outdoor season with one of the busier junior seasons in recent memory.
June and July were the busier months for the with a drop-off in numbers in August but there’s a good reason for that, said Slavica Jovic, the club’s co-ordinator of junior development.
“Lots of kids usually take vacation in August,” she said. “We had lots of kids in June and July and it was the busiest time we had in some years.”
One of the things the club did this year was increase the frequency of the junior programs with two days per week over the summer set aside for the younger groups.
The juniors were split by both age and skill level to make sure they were in the right division but Jovic said there may have been another reason why the junior program was so popular.
“We had put a lot of equipment into the schools and they were able to play during phys-ed class,” she said. “That may have increased our numbers but I’m not too sure. It would be nice if it did. We just wanted to keep them engaged and give them the opportunity to learn more and get better.”
In terms of overall club numbers, more women played this season than the men did, something which varies from year-to-year, said Jovic, but that was also the case with the junior girls.
“We had Melina Turk as a coach this season so maybe that was a reason,” she said. “The numbers go up and down all the time but what we did see was a lot of new junior players and a lot of them were girls.”
Three girls also got the chance to head down to the Alberta Tennis Centre in Calgary earlier this season for the annual Nike Junior Tennis Camp, a trip some of the club’s juniors have made in the past. The sister duo of Alexanna and Madeleine Kapraelian and Nadeli Ndulovu spent a week in August getting instruction, working on drills and practising game play.
Tamara Jovic also got the chance to represent the NWT as the lone player at the Canada Summer Games and what made her appearance even more impressive was that she played a mere 10 days following surgery to have her appendix removed.
The club will take a short break before the indoor season begins at the Fieldhouse in the first week of October, where the junior programs will continue with three different levels of instruction: beginner, intermediate and advanced along with the planned Christmas tournament later in the year.
“We’re happy with how things went this season and we want to keep it going strong,” said Jovic.