The sounds of laughter and coaching emanating from Oakley’s Freedom High School tennis courts on a recent, warm, sunny morning can mean only one thing: the start of Steve Amaro’s summertime camps.
The Freedom coach of 21 years recently kicked off the 20th — and possibly final — year of week-long camps, as he prepares to move into his new role as an assistant principal next school year. But before then, he once again treated East County youth to his unique coaching and a lot of joyous excitement.
“I think it has gotten more fun,” Amaro said of the camps, as kids of all ages streamed off the courts after 90 minutes of drills, intermixed with matches and fun games.
Amaro launched the week-long camps to give community youth more opportunities to hone their skills and play. It became a local summertime staple, attracting at least 500 kids over two decades, including representatives from all six Bay Valley Athletic League schools.
“It’s fun, and you get to spend time with your friends,” said Othrom, one camper at the conclusion of this year’s first camp. “This is the most fun year I have had.”
A quick glance at the tennis courts during one camp session revealed a handful of students receiving instruction, while others were in the midst of singles competition and some flocked from one side of the courts to the other during a fun-filled game.
Amaro said he has frequently evaluated his instruction techniques over the years, but always kept the emphasis on fun, which created a welcoming environment for all.
“Like anything, if you go through a process of analyzing what’s effective and what’s not, we become more effective in our teaching techniques, more effective in making sure the kids are having fun,” Amaro said. “We have made it a welcoming atmosphere for all kids, regardless of where they come from.”
Recent campers appeared to be relishing what might be their final Freedom camp.
“I liked how it helped me play tennis and I got better,” said camper Anthony. “It was really fun.”
Fellow attendee, Lyla, said she enjoyed both the drills and games. “My mom signed me up and I kept having fun, so I kept doing it over and over again,” she said.
Amaro said the next tennis coach will decide if the camps continue. Until then, he’s enjoying his final run leading the budding stars.
“I did [the camps] to promote and grow the game of tennis for the community,” Amaro said, “to create an opportunity for our athletes to give back by teaching youth and have a creative fundraiser that supported the Freedom tennis teams. I’m hoping they’ll continue, but we’ll have to see.”