The Aiken Tennis Club hosted a Junior Development weekend May 2-4. The local players involved were Charles Bostwick, brothers Alex and George Handy, Tristan Young, Christian Thorndike, Zach Harrington. Our out of town guests included brothers Dylan and Laurenson Ward, from Philadelphia and Colton Buffington from Cleveland.

The players met at the Aiken Tennis Club on Friday evening amongst a very festive local street fair, it was the 22nd Aiken Lobster Races right outside our door, two equally as obscure sports in such close proximity. One of the boys remarked that he was sure that we have now found at least one sport that Court Tennis players might outnumber; lobster racers!

  We started with Gabe giving some group lessons on court, some two versus two mini tennis, before he organized some fun doubles for a gentle hit around. We broke for dinner and relaxation at 7:30pm.

The next morning the players were divided into two groups.  One group was on court for a two hour session with Gabe, while the others took part in the off court instruction with Dacre Stoker.

The on court instruction covered the following: cut, touch and control of  the ball. Gabe ran the players through a variety of drills and exercises. The off court session involved Dacre explaining the role of the USCTA, USCTPF and Court Tennis in America with an emphasis on junior play. This included information about the Van Allen, and Clothier cups, and a little history as well as the selection process and experiences of some recent players; Gabe Kinzler and Camden Riviere while playing in these events.

The players received an explanation about handicaps, how they are maintained on the RTO sight, and the importance of providing match data to the local club administrator to keep the handicaps current. Each player was also provided an old fashion sheet which explained the handicap calculator method.

Another session about ball making involved a Power Point presentation of the steps involved in making a ball that The Aiken Real Tennis Ball Company uses in Haiti.

Later, the junior players tested their knowledge in a Quiz game, utilizing the questionnaire that Rich Smith created for a similar junior weekend in Newport.                    

The final off court presentation was all about how to be accepted at any court in the world, otherwise known as proper Court Tennis Etiquette. It was our intention to make sure that as we pass on the knowledge and skills to the future players and leaders of our game, it is also our responsibility to make sure that they maintain the way the game is played both on and off the court. 

Once everyone had lunch each group switched locations and repeated the process of the previous group.

All the players had a short break from 3-4pm. After the break the players participated in a skills game for prizes. Their were four separate events; each involved hitting 5 balls into or as close as possible to specific locations on court; Grill, Winning Gallery, Dedans, and then chase ½ yard. The player with the best overall result was George Handy III, who won a copy of the book “A Cut above the Rest”  followed by Dylan Ward, who won a copy of “The First Beautiful Game”. Later in the evening Gabe paired up the players into equally matched Doubles teams and played some six game sets.

The finals were won by Colton Buffington and Zach Harrington over Christian Thorndike and Alex Handy 6-5.

The cookout that evening was graciously hosted by Jesse and Connie Young and assisted by George Handy and Warren Scherer. Everyone had a wonderful time in the warm evening, all the players truly enjoyed soothing their tired muscles in the poolside hot tub.

On Sunday morning the final session of the weekend involved a series of serve and return drills, followed by doubles games of “11” to test how well the players had learned their serves and returns. 

The Aiken Tennis Club whishes to thank all participants, especially our out of town guests, for taking the time to come and learn and play with us. In addition without the financial support of the United States Court Tennis Preservation Foundation this weekend would not have been possible.  I  also would like to extend a special thank you to all the parents of our players and our professional Gabe Kinzler.