By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
St. Michael-Albertville middle schools are currently hosting its annual Summer Community Ed Tennis Program and with 193 members on hand, STMA coaches and players have their hands full.
The 4-week program offers kids grades 3-12 a chance to learn fundamentals, practice drills and a chance for match play. Eleven different coaches help two groups divided between the youth group at Middle School East and the junior varsity/varsity students participate at Middle School West.
STMA boys’ and girls’ head tennis coach Jim Riles has been the coordinator of the annual summer program since 1990. Riles, who strictly works with the youth group (grades 3-6), said the program has boomed in popularity over his 20 years as coordinator.
“It’s really been a strong program over the last 10 years,” Riles said. “It’s not required of my varsity students to participate, but pretty much all of my players now all were part of the program growing up.”
With so many students to account for, 11 coaches – six of them being former or current STMA varsity tennis players, including Zach House, Breanna Hagerty and Kylie Slavin – help coach the students.
Coaches Scott Reimer and Ryan Antony directly work with the varsity and junior varsity kids. David Jergenson and Paul Jeffries coach the kid’s grades 3-8.
The program is currently taking a week off for the mandatory one week “No Contact” period during the Fourth-of-July holiday week. The program will resume for its final session, July 8-11.
Each session goes for two hours with older kids going from 8-10 a.m. and youths going from 10-noon.
“We even have a few kids from the Rogers school district,” Riles said. “Rogers’ program only last a week and ours goes four. They used to register online at midnight the first day of registration, but we have changed some of the rules to give our kids the first chance to sign up.”
STMA JOINS USTA RANKS
Student’s grades 7-12, had a chance for the first time in program history to participate in the United States Tennis Association.
Current and former STMA players posted a 3-0 record in the USTA’s intermediate level of competition. The matches are different than typical high school rules in that there is only two singles matches (one boys and one girls) and four doubles matches (one boys, one girls), as well as two mixed doubles matches.
Each set is a race to eight points with the ultimate winner of the match winning the most games rather than sets. STMA defeated Buffalo 4-2, White Bear Lake 4-2, and Fridley 6-0. Their final USTA match will be at 1 p.m. on July 11 against Champlin Park.