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Foundation being laid for local tennis program to begin

Published: 3:33 PM, 06/06/2013 Last updated: 3:34 PM, 06/06/2013

Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

NEWPORT�While the summer season brings excitement to the national tennis scene, it will also bring some to the local aspect of the sport as well.

Later this month, the tennis courts at the Newport City Park - which is administered by the Newport Parks and Recreation department - will undergo a major resurfacing project to rehab the courts. The City of Newport obtained a $73,000 LPRF grant from the state�s Department of Environment and Conservation in 2010 to renovate the aging city pool and tennis courts.

Now the City of Newport�s Parks and Recreation department is working to make an investment in the facility upgrade, by partnering with the United States Tennis Association, to help start a tennis program within the county. The program will focus on introducing the sport to younger athletes, but will also look at involving people of all ages.

The goal of helping to reinvigorate the sport in the community has been a longtime goal of Parks and Recreation director Tim Dockery, who has overseen a reinvestment and overhaul of the Newport City Park�s facilities since returning to Newport in the position nearly two decades ago.

�Even if you start later in life, (tennis) is a lifetime sport,� Dockery said. �You can play for a long time, even as you get older, and get good exercise.

�It truly is a sport for lifetime,� said Dockery, who wants to see the program take off in order to make maximum use of the renovated tennis facility.

The program is also designed to help facilitate development of younger players, in order to help assist the tennis program at Cocke County High School. A once proud program, which had numerous successes, has fallen on hard times in recent years. Filling a complete roster has at times been a challenge for the fledgeling program.

�There�s a need to get young people involved in tennis, so it will have a trickle-down effect and eventually help out at all levels,� Dockery said. �It�s the same way for all sports.

�We�re doing (the USTA partnership) for recreational use, but it can help the high school out too,� Dockery said.

The program saw the foundation laid on Wednesday, when USTA Southern Representative Karl Davies, who has been involved with the International Tennis Federation for the past 10 years and played collegiately at Lamar University, paid a visit to the community to help establish the beginning of the partnership. Davies helped lead a brief clinic which involved a handful of Cocke County High School tennis players and their coach Wade Wester, along with Newport Parks and Recreation program coordinator Renea Collins.

Davies, who sits on the USTA Southern Player Development Committee and hold the PTR Junior Development and Performance Professional status in Tennessee, gave a brief overview of some things that the USTA can provide to the program and then conducted a short clinic at the City Park facility.

�What we�re hoping to do is maximize the improvement in the facility here at the (City Park),� Davies said. �By doing that, we hope to make a good connection with the schools to help get more young kids involved in the program.�

Wednesday�s session was merely laying the groundwork for what is to come later. Following the renovation of the facility, which is scheduled to begin on June 17, the goal is to quickly establish a date to hold a tennis festival locally both to promote the new courts, but the new program as well.

�Our model (with the USTA) is to have two to three tennis festivals, where kids come, get instruction and get exposed to the sport,� Davies said. �Then after that, we can get them into some type of programming instruction type play, and we have play days and those things.

�Ideally from a programming point of view, we can have them play, hold clinics and instruction and trying to form junior teams from there,� Davies said. �We�re just trying to establish some form of structure.�

For more information on the program, contact the Newport Parks and Recreation Department at 423-623-7304.

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