MARQUETTE - On a breezy Friday afternoon five young children practiced rudimentary tennis skills at the tennis courts at Sandy Knoll Elementary school in Marquette.
Although the kids, 3 to 5, are too young to play tennis against each other, instructors with the YMCA of Marquette county led them in several exercises meant to strengthen hand-eye coordination.
And since even the most dedicated athletes need a break in training, the exercises were soon interrupted by a game of tag.
Avery Steinberg, 4, of Pensacola, Fla., practices hitting the tennis ball during a YMCA tennis class held at Sandy Knoll Elementary School in Marquette Friday. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
Owen Debelak, 5, of Negaunee positions for a return while Abby Appell, 4, of Rudyard watches. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
"They're doing great," said Cody Wickstrom, an instructor with the YMCA.
"They're improving every day. They're good listeners."
Tennis is just one of the courses offered through the YMCA during the summer. Laura Murawski, program development director, said they have been doing them for several years.
"Every summer we do like week-long camps for the kids and we break those out by ages to preschoolers and then the older kids," she said.
She said the programs keep kids active during the summer.
"It's a social activity that they get in the summer. A lot of the kids, especially the younger ones, it's their first time trying one of those sports," she said.
Participation in the classes vary with the activity involved, she said. Whereas five kids participated in the tennis classes, she said as many as 12 have enrolled in the soccer program.
"A lot of the time it also depends on the week we offer it, if there's a lot of other programs going on around town," she said.
The classes cost $30 for members and $45 for non-members.
A row of proud parents watched their children from a shaded, grassy area next to the tennis courts.
Kimi Steinberg, from Florida, watched as her 4-year-old daughter Avery practiced her tennis skills.
"She's doing great. She didn't want to do it but day one, she said 'Mom, I love tennis.' Look at her, she even sticks her tongue out when she's playing," she said.
She said the YMCA's summer programs offer a great opportunity for young children to find a sport they like and may continue to play in the future.
"I have three kids, so it makes it nice to give her an actual activity to do. She doesn't listen to me as well as she listens to (the instructors). I can take her to play tennis but it's a big difference to have somebody else teach her versus me," she said.
Gina Debelak of Negaunee observed as her 5-year-old son Owen hit a tennis ball bounced to him by one of the instructors.
"He's a sports junkie," she said of Owen. "He likes anything to do with any sort of sport. T-ball was ending so he asked if we could find him another sport to sign up for and he said 'how about tennis?'"
Owen's grandmother, Virginia Curtis, was also at the training.
She said she appreciates the YMCA offering different kinds of sports.
"I just think it's awesome that instead of just football and basketball that kids are offered so many more sports. Not everybody is into football, not everybody is into basketball and to offer more sports so kids get a variety is great," she said.
For more information about the YMCA's summer programs for kids, call 906-227-YMCA or go to www.ymcamqt.org.
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.