Spring into action with the Fortuna junior team tennis league

Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer

Beacon Correspondent

High school is not the only place for youth to play tennis in Humboldt County. Fortuna Union High School tennis coach Robert Gearhart is beginning his sixth year running the Fortuna Junior Team Tennis League, which has been in place for over 10 years. The league is open to children ages 5 to 13 and will take place at the Fortuna High tennis courts.

The program is sponsored by USTA, United States Tennis Association, Jr. Team Tennis which provides the insurance necessary to have the program. The USTA reflects their not-for-profit mission as "To Promote and Develop the Growth of Tennis" and was established in 1881.

According to www.USTA.com, "The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis and the recognized leader in promoting and developing the sport's growth on every level in the United States, from local communities to the crown jewel of the professional game, the U.S. Open."

Participants will enjoy a season beginning on April 10 through May 19 where practices will be held on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6 p.m. with Match Play on Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m.

The cost is $60 per player, which includes a T-shirt, prizes, a one-year USTA membership, and awards. Coach Gearhart does have some rackets for children ages 5 to 8. Each participant is encouraged to wear tennis shoes, appropriate clothing, and bring a tennis racket.

Gearhart is working recruiting members of the FUHS tennis teams to help teach the basics and keep the flow of practices going. The volunteer work does not go without reward besides feeling good about helping their local youth. Coach Gearhart will be giving the team some of the proceeds from the spring 2013 Fortuna Junior Team Tennis League.

"We really encourage parent involvement just to keep the flow of things going and give that extra attention to the players," Coach Gearhart said. In past years ratios have been about five players to one leader and this year with the help of the FUHS tennis teams that ratio would continue and be even better.

The League brings beginners of all ages with some returning players. Coach Gearhart said, "I have seen a couple kids in my six years come to camp and go on to play in high school."

Gearhart stresses sportsmanship in his teachings and believes tennis to be a good foundation to other sports as well. "Tennis is all about fun and can be a lifelong sport. You only need one other person to play and it is an inexpensive sport," said Gearhart.

For more information on the Fortuna Junior Team Tennis League contact Coach Robert Gearhart at fortuna_tennis@suddenlink.net, call 725-5812, or check out their Facebook page, "Fortuna Tennis," where there is a link to register for the Spring 2013 League.