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When Tanner Stewart grabbed around a child-sized tennis racket, he began to smile.
“The big rackets are really heavy,” said Stewart, who is in the 4-7 age group session of the Quick Start Tennis Program. “I like swinging the smaller rackets, I can hit the ball and it’s more fun.”
Stewart was among the 16 children in the 4-7 division who participated in the most recent session of Los Alamos County tennis program at the Canyon Tennis Courts.
Along with that group is an 8-11 year old session which included 14 participants.
That session started July 9 and concluded Thursday. The next session is set for July 30-Aug. 9.
The Quick Start program is put on by Los Alamos County to introduce younger players to the sport of tennis. All equipment was granted to the county from the United States Tennis Association.
Quick Start players compete and play with smaller rackets, lower nets, smaller courts and lower bouncing balls. Quick Start youth rackets are two to six inches shorter than an average adult racket — which is 27 inches — depending on the age of the child. The courts are 36 feet for players 8 and younger, and 60 feet for players 10 and younger, considerably smaller than the 78-foot regulation courts.
The USTA approved these changes this past fall and all 10-and-under tournaments will be played with the new criteria.
The program instructors are the Los Alamos Hilltoper boys tennis coaching staff, Billy and Lloyd Wilton and Lloyd’s wife Stephanie Wilton. They were on hand to instruct the children in the new format.
“Quick Start is an awesome tool and program to introduce tennis to children who have never played before,” said Lloyd Wilton, who along with twin brother Billy were standout players at Los Alamos High School before becoming members of the Western New Mexico University men’s tennis team. “With Quick Start, children can start playing right away.”
Stephanie Wilton was a volunteer as well as a former Division II college tennis player for Western New Mexico University in Silver City.
“I grew up with a hard tennis ball coming at me real fast and it would scare me,” Stephanie said. “And I saw many of my friends lose interest and quit playing.”
The Quick Start program will also continue in the fall and members of the Hilltopper team are scheduled to make appearances and aid in instruction.
For more information, contact the county’s Recreation Division at 505-662-8173 or visit losalamosnm.us/rec/Programs/Pages/QuickstartTennis.aspx.