Junior tennis league takes off on South Whidbey

Lyna Nichols responds to teammate Kalie Stayskal’s serve last week during junior team tennis league play at South Whidbey High School - Jeff VanDerford
Lyna Nichols responds to teammate Kalie Stayskal’s serve last week during junior team tennis league play at South Whidbey High School
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

Forget the squirt guns or super soakers. A tennis racquet is the weapon of choice for these kids this summer.

When tennis instructor Karyle Kramer tried to organize an all-Whidbey United States Tennis Association-sanctioned junior tennis league, she had problems recruiting in Coupeville and Oak Harbor.

“So all 31 kids are from South Whidbey and they range in age from 8 to 16,” Kramer said.

“I started this league because

I want our players to have the same opportunities that other tennis players have access to. On the mainland, there are several leagues, many of them year-round.”

Because of traveling costs, ferry lines and other hassles, Kramer said it’s difficult for families to travel off-island for sports competitions, especially when it’s for several weeks at a time.

“With the number of tennis players we have here, there was no reason we couldn’t form our own league,” she added. “It just took some work to figure out the details.”

Kids play matches twice a week for three weeks, so each team plays the other twice. The format is girls singles, boys singles, girls doubles, boys doubles and mixed doubles.

The program brings kids together in teams to play against other teams. The resultant interaction on the court, and off, promotes social skills and important values by fostering a spirit of cooperation and unity, as well as individual self-growth.

“And it’s a fun environment for kids in which they learn that succeeding is really more about how they play the game‚ win or lose,” Kramer said.

Lyna Nichols agreed. A member of South Whidbey’s girls tennis team in the spring, Nichols joined the group to improve her serve under Falcon coach Tom Kramer, who was on hand to help his daughter teach.

“My serve has gotten much better this summer, but Mr. Kramer warned me about getting bored as I become more consistent,” she said. “He said that, ‘No one’s going to watch you play because you’re always going to hit it in.’”

Nichols said it was exciting for her and the other students to be the pioneers of a new program.

“This is the first year and we hope it grows,” she said.

So does Karyle Kramer.

“It’s a great experience for the kids to have to play under pressure, with people watching,” she said. “They’re learning how to better win and lose gracefully. Sometimes, it isn’t easy.”

Of the 31 players, 15 are siblings with a brother or sister (or both) playing in the league. It’s one of the few sports that girls and boys can play and compete both on the same team and against each other.

And the players are learning other values as well.

“They have demonstrated incredibly good sportsmanship by calling their own lines and keeping track of their own scores,” Kramer noted. “They encourage each other and keep positive attitudes. It’s all good.”

Sophomore Kalie Stayskal said she’s learned not to be overly concerned with other people on the court.

“My concept of sportsmanship has improved a lot,” she said. “The result is, I can be less competitive and still have fun. ’Specially when I win a match.”

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