Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Americans caught the tennis bug. Schools were building tennis courts and starting tennis programs and the country was captivated when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in the famous “Battle of the Sexes” in 1973. But, like many things, interest in tennis has waned over the years as today’s youth have many more activities and opportunities that vie for their attention.
That is regrettable says Katherine Taylor, a local tennis advocate who just finished her second season coaching the Lee High girls tennis team. Which explains why she has accepted a position on the board of SWAT (Staunton Waynesboro Tennis Association) — a local nonprofit organization, founded in 1974, to promote tennis-related events for area players of all ages and abilities.
“I may be biased, but tennis is the best sport anyone can play,” Taylor explained. “Seriously, though, it’s such a versatile sport that can be played at about any age and at any skill level as a team or played individually and all year long, providing a great physical and mental workout.”
The high school season might be over for most, but Taylor is excited by the tennis opportunities that abound for those of all ages this summer, thanks in part to the programming put together by the SWAT team.
As she rattled off those opportunities, she highlighted the pair of two-week youth summer camps offered in Waynesboro at Ridgeview Park (June 3-14) and Staunton in Gypsy Hill Park (June 17-28). The camps, open to youth between the ages of 6 and 18, provide 90 minutes of quality instruction with college-age tennis instructors for 10 straight weekday mornings.
“This camp was formerly known as the National Junior Tennis League camp. It is a great way for kids to learn the sport,” Taylor explained. “Last year, we had about 70 kids, but we are shooting for 100 this year.”
“Our programs help the kids learn about tennis, gain skills, and learn how to play on a team. They get to play with others and know other people,” she added.
Other summer tennis activities offered by SWAT include a Tuesday Night Tennis program that provides an hour of group instruction and then an hour of round-robin doubles play for be-ginning and intermediate adult players. The adult tennis, which is free to SWAT members and low cost for nonmembers, will be led by the new Mary Baldwin University tennis coach Chris Stambaugh.
“We are excited about adding to the list of tennis opportunities,” said Taylor of the adult program. “Chris has had great success with this program where he’s lived previously.”
Stambaugh, also new to the SWAT board, is leading the Junior Tennis League for kids that starts in July as a new program. Rounding out the SWAT list of summer tennis programs is a series of tennis tournaments for all ages throughout the summer. More information on all of these programs can be found on the SWAT website.
Taylor, who played tennis atLee High and graduated in 1986, is excited to be back in the area and involved again with the tennis world.
“I grew up playing tennis and one of my old family friends, Tom Erskine, asked me to join SWAT,” she said. “For me personally, I just think it is a great game. All you need is a racket, some balls, and one other person to play.”
“With all of the options out there, SWAT is one way to help make sure tennis stays in the forefront as one sport for everyone to try, fall in love with, and be able to play as we all age gracefully,” she added.