The Monday-through-Thursday camp for kindergarten through eighth-grade students runs from 8:30 to 10 a.m. The high school kids get their turn from 10:15 to 11:45 a.m. “The advanced players on the Freedom and Heritage teams come and help us run the junior class, and they get community-service hours,” said Amaro. “They are week-long sessions and some of them will have been here for all four weeks, and some of them rotate week in and week out. It just depends.”
The goal of the program, said Amaro, is “to have fun and to teach the sport of tennis. I tell the kids that this is a sport that you can play for the rest of your life. What I always tell them is that the first priority is to be safe, but then we want to have fun. And if we do that, then we set the stage for them to have a great sporting experience for life.”
The junior sessions provide individual instruction. “We might do one set of drills, and then we’ll go ahead and do a game that will allow them to practice their activities,” Amaro said. “That seems to keep them happy.” The high school kids are grouped by ability in groups of four, receive up to a half-hour instruction from Amaro or an assistant, followed by plenty of time to practice new skills.
Campers have a variety of reasons for signing up. “There are a few high school kids who’ve played high school tennis for at least one or two seasons,” said Amaro. “Then there are some who are interested in trying out for their tennis teams, so they come out here to prepare themselves for tryouts. Then there are some who just come out because they want the physical exercise and to have something to do over the summer.”
Over the years, the camp has trained several stars for Freedom and other schools, including Freedom’s No. 1 player last season, Sarah Osborn, who was league MVP as a junior and will be playing tennis at Notre Dame de Namur in the fall. Many of the high school kids hoping to follow in Osborn’s footsteps help supervise the younger group and then play in the later sessions.
“Stephanie Johnston is one of the top players at Heritage and she’s been here for a long time,” said Amaro. “Of course, Jeff Matteri is the No. 1 for Freedom. Jordan Tickner has been here for a few years and he’s the No. 1 for Liberty. It’s always exciting to see them do well on their tennis teams, but that’s really secondary for me. What’s more important is that they have a good experience.
“You don’t remember the matches after they’re said and done. What you remember is the relationships that you had with the other kids as well as the coach. And that’s been very rewarding to me – watching the kids grow up into not only fine tennis players, but athletes and fine people. The secondary focus is that all the money we generate from this goes back to the tennis program.”
The cost of the camp is $40 and four unopened containers of tennis balls. “It costs over $10,000 to resurface the tennis courts,” said Amaro. “It should be done once every five to eight years; the last set made it to 10 years. But almost all the money that we made over a 10-year cycle of this program was saved and went to new tennis courts.”
Another fundraiser, the Freedom Athletic Director’s Golf Tournament on June 7, raised $5,000 for the school’s athletic program – “which was exciting, especially in these times,” said Amaro. “A lot of the businesses came through with prize donations, and we had a lot of businesses that did sponsorships. General Plumbing Supply was our biggest; they donated $5,000 as our total sponsor, which was incredible. We had 96 total golfers that were there; we’d like to get a few more next year. A full field is 144, so we didn’t quite make it to that. But 96 is pretty good, and a good time was had by all.
“And everyone knows that their money is going toward high school athletics, and that’s the bonus in these times.”