Local elementary school teacher Brent Larmour says when he was a kid growing up right here in Campbell River, “Tennis was huge. You couldn’t even get on the courts, because they were just always full.”
Well, he is trying – and seemingly succeeding – at making tennis a more popular thing again amongst Campbell River youth. He runs the School District 72 (SD72) Tennis Club, which is seeing its membership grow year to year and is currently up to around 50 members.
“The first year we did K-12, but the age discrepancy was too big,” he says, “so we focused on the middle and high schools at first and tried to break it up and get the south end – the Southgate and Timberline group playing together – and the north end – the Carihi and Phoenix kids playing together.”
But since he’s an elementary school teacher, he wanted to get the younger kids back involved, too. So last year he “added the Sandowne kids playing at Robron” into the mix.
That went over well, so this year he opened it up to Grade 3-5 kids district-wide to play Tuesdays and Thursdays at Willow Point Park by the Sportsplex. And then the high school kids from John Jepson’s leadership program at Carihi joined up to help out with the elementary program, which creates a mentorship aspect, as well.
“They’re great,” Larmour says. “They’re such a big help, especially in when you’re just introducing the younger kids to it and giving them all the dos and don’ts for safety reasons and stuff like that, it’s good to have a few more sets of eyes around to make sure everyone’s being safe.”
On Mondays and Wednesdays he’s at Centennial Park coaching the Carihi and Phoenix students while Paul Klien and Shawn Cowan coach the Timberline/Southgate group at Willow Point.
Larmour says the popularity of tennis, like that of other sports, comes in waves, and he thinks the wave is coming back in.
“When I was growing up, lacrosse was huge, too, and then it kind of went away a bit for a while, and now it’s coming back, and I think tennis is like that, too. It’s riding a wave up. I’ve been told it’s one of the fastest growing sports in Canada,” he says, due in part to the two big-name Canadians making their own waves in tennis right now: Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard.
Helping build that wave, he says, is also the “radically changed” approach by Tennis Canada in teaching the sport: an approach called Progressive Tennis.
Progressive Tennis, Larmour says, uses a systematic progression of court size, balls and rackets to scale the game down to an appropriate level for youth. This scaling allows them to improve their skills more quickly, he says, instead of getting frustrated with the sport.
“The quicker and more skillfully a player can play this game, the more fun it is,” Larmour says, “so this is a really great system to make it more fun more quickly for them and lets them pick up the fundamentals a bit easier to start them off.”
While there is some teaching involved and the practices are structured, Larmour says the most important aspect for him, “is just that the kids just come out and have some fun.”
They have rackets available for kids that don’t have one – though the kids are expected to get their own, eventually – so all they need when they show up is enthusiasm and a decent pair of shoes.
“It’s one of the things that makes tennis so attractive to parents,” he says. “It’s one of the more reasonable sports, cost-wise,” he says. “It’s just two rackets and a couple of balls, and you’ve got a game,” he says. “That’s not the case in a lot of other sports, where there’s a bunch of expensive equipment to buy.”
For more information on the club, email Larmour at Brent.Larmour@SD72.bc.ca or stop by the courts to have a chat.
Mondays and Wednesdays he’s at Centennial and on Tuesdays and Thursdays he’s at Willow Point. Practices run from 3:15 to 4:30 each day for six weeks and begun April 25, so there’s still time to get some court time for the kids.