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If you were to ask the young players taking part in Tennis NWT’s junior high performance camps this week about what’s happening right now, they’ll tell you simply that it’s good to be out there.

The camps at the Yellowknife Tennis Club wrap up on Friday with several young players between the ages of six to 15 hitting the courts for a week of instruction under the tutelage of coaches Jan Martinek and Tamara Jovic.

Martinek, who’s back for his second straight year as the head pro at the club, said the one thing everyone agreed upon was the abundance of hot weather but everyone was still enthusiastic enough to play.

“Lots of kids this year,” he said. “I told people that I’m back in the city and to come out. It’s good to see so many show up and I think it’s because people know me. That initial step of being nervous around someone new is totally gone and it’s just fun times since I’ve been here.”

Like everyone else who came from the south to work – Martinek is from Vancouver – he had to self-isolate for 14 days upon his arrival before heading out onto the courts.

Araliya Fox steps into a forehand return during an accuracy drill during a junior high performance camp run by Tennis NWT at the Yellowknife Tennis Club on Tuesday.
James McCarthy/NNSL photo

The players were split into one of three groups for the week: Smashers for ages six through eight; Aces for ages eight through 10 and the high performance group for the 10 to 15-year-olds. The Smashers and Aces were out on court in the afternoons with the focus on learning ground strokes and footwork among other things. Each group played fun matches to wrap things up each day.

The older group focused more on the technical aspect of the sport, mainly because it’s the group which could provide the bulk of the team that will head to the 2021 Canada Summer Games in Ontario next July.

If that happens, of course.

“That’s for the kids who want to get better and compete against other kids and win tournaments,” said Martinek. “They’re the ones who want to take it seriously. The kids out in the afternoon are the ones who are up-and-coming. If they stick with it, they’ll become good at it.”

Martinek also said he can see which ones seem to have a grasp of the sport already.

“Some of them have a good judgment already of where to hit the ball and how fast it is and all that,” he said. “It’s tough sometimes because you can’t tell if they’re here because they like it or if their parents signed them up but you can see two different groups: the ones who will continue and the ones that probably won’t.”

When it comes to the players, the common theme was one of learning how to aim the ball, such as Melanie Messier. She comes from some good racquet sports pedigree as her older brother, Stephen Messier, is one of the best young tennis and squash players in the territory.

“We learned how to aim and hit the ball,” she said.

Tendesai Mufandaedza said she liked learning how to serve.

“I do overhand,” she said. “I learned how to do that. The coaches have been OK.”

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James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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