Editor’s note: Randy Krejci, a retired teacher, coach and administrator in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, remains active in local sports and serves as commissioner of the Mississippi Valley Conference.
By Randy Krejci, community contributor
Earlier this summer, I authored an article about how to get started in tennis and the value of playing this lifelong game.
As we embark on the first day of school in the Cedar Rapids Community School District on Tuesday, it reminds me of another option for students who are in seventh or eighth grade and interested in getting involved in tennis.
Practices begin on the first day of school and contests will kick off as quickly as Sept 10.
This approximately six-week season gives these middle school athletes the chance to play individually and be part of a team that is not only fun, but allows for building skills that can be used on the high school scene and beyond.
Though the Iowa City schools are not part of this endeavor, there are 10 schools in the league with competition for boys in the fall and girls in the spring.
Tennis programs are offered at Franklin, Harding, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson in Cedar Rapids, Excelsior and Oak Ridge in the Linn-Mar system, Prairie Point in the College Community system, and Regis/LaSalle as a co-op team. These teams compete in nine meets over the course of the season.
The only requirements are a physical from your doctor, having a parent sign the now-established “concussion form” — which is a part of all sports participation at the middle school and high school level — and, at a couple of schools, paying a towel/lock fee.
Scott Nelson, a well-known basketball coach in the CRCSD and the Linn-Mar system and now activities director at Harding Middle School, sees the value in youth tennis.
“It is a unique and positive aspect to middle schools,” he said. “It gives young student-athletes a chance to participate for their schools, and though there are some outside opportunities to play tennis away from school, perhaps there’s not as many chances as found in AAU basketball, outside soccer competition and USA volleyball opportunities.”
The girls’ season begins at the end of March and, depending on school spring break calendars, competition will commence in the middle of April.
“It allows kids to develop friendships, play doubles and work with a partner, and you can be as competitive or non-competitive as you want to be,” said Ozie Eggelton, who is beginning his 42nd year of coaching tennis and basketball at Harding, as well teaching physical education.
Eggelton is the dean of tennis coaches in the area, at the middle and high school levels.
“As a coach, I try to work on developing skills regarding forehands, backhands, and serving,” he said. “Consistency is a key and we try to build on these skills for use in high school and beyond with this lifelong sport.”
Carey Ash, a longtime coach and activities director at Wilson, sums it up best.
“It is a low cost sport … that student-athletes can enjoy with their families and friends for a lifetime,” he said.
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