Tennis, anyone? New club for kids begins on South End

Tennis professional Tracie Mitchem has begun the South Whidbey Youth Tennis Club. - Photo courtesy of Tracie Mitchem
Tennis professional Tracie Mitchem has begun the South Whidbey Youth Tennis Club.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Tracie Mitchem

A new organization devoted to tennis, kids and the value of a good education, has begun on South Whidbey.

“I like to think of youth tennis as the ‘seedling’ for the soil of a tennis community,” said tennis professional Tracie Mitchem. “If we can create the opportunity to contribute and witness the development of our future tennis generation, let’s take it.”

The South Whidbey Youth Tennis Club held a “soft launch” earlier this month and the regular Wednesday program kicks off in January.

“Our mission is to raise academically and physically healthy young adults, with a passion for learning and a commitment to excellence in all facets of life,” Mitchem said. ”In a safe, fun and nurturing setting, we teach the value of personal investment, achievement, community stewardship and teamwork.”

That must ring a bell with parents and tennis novices alike; more than 25 students from 5 to 13 showed up for the pilot program.

Mitchem said she’s intent upon creating a year-round tennis experience that includes after-school activities such as study groups for homework, which she’s dubbed “cranium crams.”

She plans on inviting guest speakers to cover subjects such as nutrition and fitness, skills training and scholarship preparation for college.

Mitchem went to the South Whidbey School District and asked for its approval to post news of the club in the elementary school.

“(District Superintendent) Fred McCarthy said it would be OK because we will be giving back to the community,” she said. “We intend to provide real stewardship with ongoing community service projects, service hours events for high school members and a volunteer ‘court posse’ to maintain tennis facilities.”

They plan year-round, off-island indoor tennis practices to support local programs, as well.

You’re never too young to learn this sport.

“I already won two times,” said Chloe Nichols, 6. “Sometimes, it’s hard to hit the ball, but I beat the coach and another girl and I was really happy.”

Chloe’s mom, Alanna Nichols, said her daughter has three older siblings who all play sports and Chloe wanted to be just like them.

“She wouldn’t let us say no,” Nichols said with a laugh.

Sisters Savannah and Charlize Taylor, 10 and 8, are getting into the spirit as well.

“We’re learning stuff like how to hold the racquet and serve the ball,” Savannah said. Her sister added that she loves to hit the ball and watch it go up.

“And then watch it come back down again,” Charlize added.

All three tennis players are looking forward to attending United States Tennis Association-sponsored tournaments off-island in the future.

One of Mitchem’s mantras revolves around the need to provide more exercise for children.

“Obesity among Americans is on the rise,” she said, citing figures from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Nationwide, an estimated 9 million children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 — 15 percent of the nation’s children — are considered obese. Among children ages 6 to 11, the prevalence of obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s.

“Tennis is a great anaerobic and aerobic exercise,” Mitchem noted. “And participation in tennis is multicultural, multigenerational and involves people from all walks of life.”

She noted that tennis and educational after-school programs support the core mission of schools by increasing kids’ attachment to school, improving attendance and helping to improve academic performance.

“Tennis teaches responsibility, respect, and a strong work ethic,” she said.

Mitchem is a certified instructor with the USTA, has been involved with the Special Olympics program and runs a tennis-centric business called Tracie Tennis, Inc.

The youth club’s winter after-school session will run from 3:30 to 5 p.m. each Wednesday beginning on Jan. 13 at the Island Christian Academy indoor gym on Maxwelton Road in Langley. Admission is free for supervised match-play, games, guest speakers, workouts, rallyball tennis and a study group to help with homework.

One weekend a month, SWYTC members will travel off-island to Forestcrest Athletic Club to play on three indoor courts. There is a $10 court fee and carpooling is available.

“Our vision is that tennis is a vehicle through which life lessons can be learned and character developed,” Mitchem said. “And it’s such a lot of fun.”

For more info, e-mail Mitchem at

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or sports@southwhidbeyre

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