What a racquet

Children from various age groups travel to St. John’s to compete in the Atlantic Indoor Tennis Championship.

Cameron Kilfoy

It may not be a traditional winter sport, but for the people at Greenbelt Tennis Club, it means the world.

St. John’s hosted the 2018 Junior Indoor Atlantic Championships Feb. 22-25. Youth from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island came together to participate in the tournament.

Mike Meaney, the provincial coach for Team Newfoundland at Greenbelt Tennis Club, has lots of experience with this tournament. Helping cut the ribbon for the opening of the tennis club in 1987 at the age of 17, Meaney has 30-plus years of experience in the game.

“It’s the best of the best here this weekend,” said Meaney.

The top eight contenders from each age group (10-18) came together over the weekend to compete for the three Atlantic spots to qualify for the National Championships.

Tennis doesn’t have an off-season, so these young people practise year-round through aches and pain to get themselves ready for the championship.

Tennis players Jack Forester (left) and Zack Verboom (right) speak with game official Dennis Keaveney before their match at  the Atlantic Junior Indoor Tennis Championships in St. John’s in February. Photo by Cameron Kilfoy/Kicker.

When competing in the tournament, the participants play regulated tennis rules on a regulated tennis court. With game officials to keep them on track, these young people are playing the same game we watch on television.

Competing in a four-day tournament, the three finalists from each age group get their chance to travel across the province and compete in Nationals.

Newfoundland landed five wins in the boys and girls single categories and two wins in the doubles category –  big wins for all our competitors in their hometown.

Trophies given to the three children from each group who qualify for nationals. Photo by Cameron Kilfoy/Kicker.

For many, tennis is not a go-to sport. Getting the word out and getting people involved is something the Provincial Tennis Association (PTA) has taken into consideration. The PTA has been doing more to help get the youth involved in tennis, by holding different training camps, and recreational games.

Mark Tebow, the tournament director for Junior Atlantic Championship, doesn’t play much tennis himself but has been running the tournaments for the past 12 years.

“We’ve added extra events to our tournaments to incorporate younger kids playing,” said Tebow. “We give them a couple years of recreational tennis before they begin competing at the under-10 level.”

Tebow says teaching the rules of the game and how to play properly at the ages of five and six helps younger players when they enter an under 10-division. Tebow also loves those off-court moments, seeing everyone interacting and enjoying the tournament.

“Watching the kids from different provinces becoming friends and the parents talking to each other – it’s more the off-court stuff that I enjoy because a big part of any sport is the social side of it as well, and I think tennis is a very social sport,” said Tebow.

The Junior Atlantic Championship was a great success this year, since many local athletes will travel to  represent Newfoundland and Labrador at national championships.

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