Academy encourages young tennis players

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Pupils in MACH Acade­my’s after-school outreach program had the opportunity to try something new Friday – play tennis on a real court.

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Tennis instructor Mark O'Neal speaks to a group of students participating in the MACH Academy at the Fleming Tennis Center.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Tennis instructor Mark O'Neal speaks to a group of students participating in the MACH Academy at the Fleming Tennis Center.

“We go to the schools. We have portable equipment,” said Betty Jones, the executive director of the MACH Academy, which has provided tennis instruction and academic tutoring to area children for 20 years.

The MACH Academy uses the facilities at the Fleming Tennis Center for its regular programs.

The mobile after-school program has been in place for several years but has grown in popularity over the past three or four, she said.

There are programs at Jenkins-White and Wheeless Road Elementary schools and also separate elementary and middle school programs for pupils at W.S. Hornsby K-8 School.

Friday’s Spring Tennis Play Day was the culmination of the after-school program for the year, she said. Students from all three schools attended Friday’s event.

Jamir Bass, a Wheeless Road fourth-grader, said he was excited to be at the Fleming Tennis Center.

“I want to play tennis,” he said.

Wheeless Road Ele­mentary is the newest school to have the program, coming on board this school year. Even in a short time, Principal Valerie McGahee said, she believed the program had an impact.

“All of the kids who participated did well in the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, and they passed everything,” she said.

Participation was a privilege, she said, and they had to do well academically and behave in class to be a part.

Besides working as an incentive for the pupils, there are other benefits, including learning a sport that can be played throughout a lifetime, she said.

While Friday was mainly about fun, Jones said it was also a chance to showcase how the sport is modified for children 10 and younger.

“The balls are different. The court is smaller. We bring it to their level,” she said.

MACH Academy is gearing up for its two summer camp programs. The Reach for the Stars Camp, for ages 5 though 18, includes tennis and also academic enrichment, career exploration, college planning and nutrition.

It will be in session from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 28 through July 20. The cost for camp is $100 per week, and partial scholarships are available.

There will also be a comprehensive tennis camp for ages 6 through 18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 28 through July 20. The cost is $100 a week with partial scholarships available. For more information, call (706) 796-5046.

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