By Jake Schroer
Crow River News Sports
For the second consecutive summer, two former STMA tennis players are bringing a greater awareness for the sport to the STMA community.
Recent graduates Jimmy Li and Jake Hinz began their second JJ Tennis Camp July 17, an effort that Li calls a mission to improve STMA tennis. Camp runs Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
“We’re just trying to get the younger kids to form really solid teams and help get a good following for tennis here at STMA,” Li said.
“We’re trying to grow tennis and make sure the kids are having fun out here,” Hinz said.
The duo saw how other communities have been able to grow the game of tennis, such as the town of Hastings, and decided to give it a try.
“So, if we turn tennis into something really noticeable, it’ll get funding and more people will join and overall just become a more popular sport here,” Li said.
The camp suffered growing pains in its first year; only about 15-20 kids showed up per day, and they had to use the limited tennis courts at the St. Michael Rec Center on a first-come, first-serve basis. This year’s camp is being held at the considerably larger tennis courts at St. Michael Middle School West, however, it was still no picnic to make the deal.
“Before the camp started, we were questioning if this was going to work out or not, because we needed to come up with a decent amount of money, so me and Jimmy went around to local businesses and tried to get sponsorships from them,” Hinz said.
This strategy worked, and they proudly display a banner bearing the names of various businesses outside of the tennis courts. Having the camp at a larger setup allowed Hinz and Li to open up registration to more kids, and they got more than double the amount of the first year.
Of course, it takes more than two dedicated individuals to manage nearly 50 kids on a near-daily basis, and Hinz and Li have plenty of help. Alli Hinz, Jake’s sister and a member of the STMA Lady Knights tennis team, helps out as well as Michael House, another member of the STMA boys’ tennis team. Rachel Lenz and Braedon Apelt help with the younger kids.
The camp provides an opportunity for kids of all ages to come and have fun, but it also serves as a chance for older kids to seriously work on their game.
“We do a lot of drills and a lot of games, we mix it up,” Hinz said. He observed that the kids were really having fun at camp.
“There’s a lot of friendly competition as they get to know each other more,” Li said. “Making friends is a big part of camp.”
Trent O’Neill, an incoming freshman to STMA High School, weighed in on his experience at the camp.
“It’s been really fun, great experience to be hitting back with friends again, just another great way to get out on the courts,” O’Neill said.
JJ Tennis Camp runs through August 17.