Some of the younger participants at the Allegan Summer Tennis carnival make their way through an obstacle course that was set up on one of the courts. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)A young tennis prospect shows off his skills during the Allegan Summer Tennis carnival that kicked off this year’s program on Monday, June 17. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)

Summer tennis program remains strong in Allegan

The 2018-19 school year marked another successful showing by the Allegan High School boys’ and girls’ tennis programs.
Not only did both teams win Wolverine Conference championships, but the boys also finished third in the Division 4 state finals last October while the girls finished fourth at the Division 3 state finals earlier this month. Both teams were the top public school teams in their division.
Not bad.
And according to Gary Ellis, the roots of that success can be traced back to the Allegan Summer Tennis program.
“The summer program is good for developing a love of the game in our players and for developing players for future success on our high school teams,” said Ellis, who recently retired as boys’ coach after 45 seasons and remains the director of the summer program. “This has been a major reason for what we’ve been able to do at the high school level.”
This year’s summer tennis program kicked off on Monday, June 17, with a carnival for the younger children followed by the first practices for the middle school and high school players.
“The carnival is our kick off to the program,” Ellis said. “We have games and activities going along with our very popular obstacle course that is developed each year by the high school kids and seems to get more elaborate every year.
“It’s a morning of food, fun and prizes.”
The summer program started in the 1950s and was expanded in the ‘70s by then-coach Tom Essenburg. Ellis built on the expansion when he came to Allegan in the mid-‘70s, with girls’ coach Jen Aldrich now teaming with Ellis to make sure the program continues to flourish.
“We offer something for all ages and levels starting with our Tiny Tykes program for 3-5 year olds,” Ellis said. “We do a lot of hand-eye coordination, movement and some racquet skills with that group. They are a lot of fun. 
“The elementary lesson program is primarily skill development with some play components. We try to build a good foundation and get players hooked on the sport.
“Our middle school and high school sessions continue with skill development and add a play component with matches against other area teams on Fridays. Some of our players are also involved in the USTA Junior Team Tennis league playing matches one or two nights a week.”
High school players also serve as instructors for the Tiny Tykes and elementary programs.
“It’s fun watching them share their love of the game and the experiences they’ve had in the program as they work with the younger players,” Ellis said.
The programs wraps up each summer with the Allegan Lions Club City Championships, with began in 1971.
“It’s a great way for our players to experience tournament competition and to see how much they have progressed during the summer,” Ellis said.


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