Numbers spike for South Whidbey tennis program

LANGLEY — For the past few weeks, the tennis courts at South Whidbey High School have been packed with kids.

LANGLEY — For the past few weeks, the tennis courts at South Whidbey High School have been packed with kids.

The USTA Junior Team Tennis program on South Whidbey has drawn some off-island interest, too. USTA clubs in Bellevue and the Puget Sound area have asked Karyle Kramer, the organizer of the 10-and-under and 11- to 18-year-old teams, what her secret is. She said there’s no secret to it.

“I think word has gotten out that our high school programs have a no-cut policy,” said Kramer, who also coaches the high school boys and girls tennis teams. “So every player who wants to learn the game is encouraged to try it.”

“It allows them to try a sport based on their interest, not whether they’ve played before and are super talented at it.”

More than 70 players are registered between the two teams: about double the amount from last year. The 11 to 18 club has the most players with 46, though not every one shows up each Monday and Wednesday. About 15 players from the high school teams play, and some help with the younger squad that meets an hour earlier than the middle and high school team.

“The little ones love seeing the high schoolers on the court,” Kramer said. “And the high schoolers are learning valuable skills and they truly enjoy working with the younger ones.”

“It’s a win-win.”

Kramer has had some help coaching. Lara Ford and Kalie Stayskal, one of Kramer’s former players on the girls tennis team, have led most of the drills and instruction and handled the administrative duties of checking attendance. Stayskal’s mom Nicole has helped for a couple of weeks while Kramer was out of town, too. With some of the younger, less experienced players, the coaches balance between teaching technique and rules and encouraging fun. A court with two doubles teams on it needed a reminder about court etiquette, specifically not to rally when there are coaches standing near the net.

Junior Team Tennis clubs play intersquad matches with other area teams. South Whidbey is a victim of its own success and has struggled to find another team nearby with as many players.

That’s fine, because players divide into doubles team, including some mixed with a boy and a girl, to cover the seven courts. The squads are divided by skill level, so the high school singles champion isn’t crushing an 11-year-old picking up a racquet for the first time – sort of an iron sharpens iron philosophy.

The youth program’s success led Kramer and the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District to plan an indoor, year-round tennis class for first through fourth graders, and fall and spring tennis for fifth through eighth graders.