USTA block party a smashing hit

PUHI — Kyle Aguiar came all the way from California to be part of the fun Saturday.

“My dad read about this in the paper, so we packed our tennis racquets, and here we are,” said Aguiar, sporting a ‘Corona Youth Tennis’ T-shirt, as he joined Kaua‘i junior tennis player Bradley Cano in watching the adults and older youth players go through one of the drills at the USTA Tennis Block Party.

Cano, whose sister Jade was on the court with the older youth players, said Aguiar is only in the second grade, but is “really good.”

Open to players of all levels, the Block Party was coordinated as one of the ways to celebrate tennis during May, national tennis month.

Close to 150 people, including adults and junior tennis players took advantage of the first-time event to enjoy games, demonstrations and personalized attention from professionals in enhancing their game.

Cano, only in his second year playing tennis, said the junior tennis players got a chance to work through different drills during the morning. The afternoon was reserved for the adults and older youth players.

“We learned how to hit hard, and consistent,” the young tennis player said. “It was really irritating because we used these foam balls, and even if you hit it really hard, it kind of just floated.”

Carolyn Lum, one of the Kaua‘i leaders for the event, explained the foam balls come in various designations and is just one of the ways used to build a player’s hitting.

Following the exercises, players participated in a “Foam Ball Tournament” using the foam balls and scaled-down equipment.

Bradley Lum-Tucker, one of the professionals leading the clinics, will be heading up a Play to Learn program starting in June, said USTA Director of Community Tennis Leilani Magee who was one of three USTA officials who flew in for the event.

“Kaua‘i will be leading the way over Maui and the Big Island with this program,” Magee said. “It is an expansion of a similar program being offered at more than 22 sites on O‘ahu.”

Magee said the Play to Learn program is a games and play-based learning collaborative effort between the USTA, county government, the schools and the community which results in youngsters learning the sport and having fun.

Kaua‘i will offer two six-week sessions. The first will run on Mondays from June 18 through July 24. From 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., beginners and advanced beginners between 5 to 18 years old will take the court under the direction of Lum-Tucker and Ernie Blachowiak. From 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Intermediate and Advanced players from 8 to 18 years old will be on the court.

The second six-week session will run on Thursdays from June 14 through July 20.

Each session registration fee is $30. The registration deadline is June 4.

Loaner racquets and balls will be provided, Magee said. “All the players need to do is show up and have a willingness to play.”

For more information, call Lum-Tucker at 245-9661.

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