Tower Hill Senior and Varsity tennis player Spencer Johnson considers some of his most memorable summer moments teaching younger kids how to play the game, with drills, rallies and fun matchplay. Johnson, along with other Varsity high schoolers, signed up to volunteer with the Rodney Street Tennis & Tutoring Association’s 8-week summer camp, and considers the experience unforgettable and rewarding.
“It really doesn’t feel like I am a volunteer or even at work,” said Johnson. “It’s so much fun to come down to these courts and play tennis with these enthusiastic kids every day.”
Six high schoolers, including Charlotte Donoho (Senior at Wilmington Friends), James Fleming (Junior at Tower Hill), Caroline James (Sophomore at Tatnall), Rajiv Shah (Freshman at Tower Hill), Ryan Singh (Junior at Tower Hill) and Johnson, volunteered along side an enthusiastic staff of young teachers and pros this summer at Rodney Street.
All of the volunteers and staff were required to participate in a Professional Tennis Registry workshop geared toward teaching the game of tennis to children. And they were all interviewed before being offered their summer positions.
Some 50 kids who participated in the summer tennis program, from ages 6 to 18. The volunteers came as their schedules allowed, but they quickly found out that it was more fun for the kids and themselves if they maintained a regular schedule.
“It’s hard to wake up so early, but it’s worth it,” said Charlotte Donoho, who had two young girls smiling and hanging on her as we chatted about her summer. “Once you get here, there’s a ton of energy and enthusiasm and the energy picks you up.” Charlotte’s day began at 8:30 am, when the volunteers and staff would arrive to set up the courts and greet the campers. She and others instructed the 10 and under kids every day until lunch. “I was here the first day, and I can tell you there has been a lot of improvement, especially with my group,” said Donoho when she and the others were interviewed during one of the last weeks of the program.
James Fleming has been on the receiving end of tennis instruction since the age of 10. This was his first year giving back to kids in his community and lending a hand on the courts. “Tennis means so much to me, and this just seemed like a natural to volunteer at Rodney Street.” James also loved joking around with the kids, hearing about their interests, and finding out how they were doing outside of Rodney Street. “These kids are so much fun. And they are really quick learners,” he said.
While the teen campers played tennis virtually all day, the younger ones traveled back to Rodney Street’s indoor facility for afternoon enrichment and tutoring. Ninth grader Rajiv Shah, who also happens to play tennis, decided to lend a hand at the tutoring site this summer, helping kids with math. “Tutoring at RSTTA is an amazing experience. Not only do you get to give back to the community, but you also know that the kids can go really far. You can see potential in them, and with the help of Rodney Street, they”ll change their community,” he said.
Viewing the lens of tennis from another perspective has been an eye-opening experience for volunteer Ryan Singh. “Now that I’m the coach and not the player, I can really understand how rewarding it is to see players improve. Certain kids pick the game up quickly. Those are the ones who are really motivated to get better,” he said.
Ryan worked all day from 9am to 3 pm, and while he said the schedule was tiring, it was totally manageable. “I love being here and I’m definitely coming back next year,” he said.
Singh’s advice to new volunteers? “Talk to the kids… Show them you are interested in them improving and having fun.”