Tennis players young and not-so-young have been making quite a racquet at the Hood River Sports Club this summer.
Whether it’s the eight junior tournament-level players, the women’s 4.0 United States Tennis Association team, or the weeknight Men’s Extreme League, the three courts on Brookside Drive have been getting plenty of use.
“Tennis is getting big here in Hood River,” said head instructor Kevin Beeson, who moved here from Seattle in 2000. “With the wonderful facilities here at the Sports Club and on May Street, the sport is really catching on.”
Beeson spends six days a week coaching players of all ages, including some of Hood River Valley High School’s top players, a top-ranked women’s sectional team, and a few tiny tots as well.
“We start ‘em pretty young here,” he said. “The earlier we teach people the basics, the more tennis can add to their lives.
“The saying that ‘tennis is the game of a lifetime’ is definitely true. And although not everyone will make the big-time, they’ll be able to play the game well into their adult lives, unlike a lot of other sports,” he said.
Some of Beeson’s star pupils also represent the cream of the crop at HRVHS. Junior Lauren Emmerson, a state qualifier in 2002, has already won two USTA doubles titles this year and continues to play three to five days a week.
Senior Corinne Oates joined Emmerson for one of those doubles titles (April 13-14 in Salishan) and also works out with Beeson multiple times a week, along with fellow HRV senior Ashley Nunamaker.
“The kids get out of it what they put in,” said Beeson, “and we’re really starting to see a new level of commitment from more of them every year. Instead of just doing what’s required, they’re working on their games in their free time. That’s what it’s going to take to excel.”
One player who understands that is Emmerson’s brother, Jeff, who works out at the Sports Club five days a week to help maintain his No. 21 Pacific Northwest ranking. Before playing at the under-14 level, where he currently resides, Emmerson had achieved a top-10 ranking at the 12-and-under level.
Joining Emmerson at the USTA tournament level are sophomores Jimmy Oates and Alec Asbridge, and juniors Cam Emerson and Erin Herman.
“My reason for wanting to play through the summer and winter is to improve my game for the high-school season,” said Emerson, who recently returned from the Lake Tahoe Tennis Camp in California. “But I also do it because it’s fun and I like to compete.”
Emerson and Herman have teamed up to play numerous youth tournaments this summer, and hope to remain linked through the next high-school season.
“Playing together year-round is really going to help our chances in the spring,” Herman said, “And that’s really what we’re working toward.”
Also working toward a common goal is a team of eight local women. Annie Bryant, Brenda Windsor, Becky Kopecky, Lynne Annette, Michelle Sabina, Leslie Ballard, Kristen Booth-Swanson and Stacy Birch are trying to qualify for the USTA 4.0 National Tournament, Oct. 10-13 in Tucson, Ariz., and will be playing at regionals Aug 9-11 in Portland.
“They really are a top team,” Beeson said. “They had a lot of success last year, and seem to have taken the necessary steps to improve this year.”
But, whether the players are in it for the competition, the friendships or just the fun of it, everyone involved is helping the sport of tennis grow in Hood River.
“This is the first year we’ve had six USTA sanctioned tournaments,” Beeson said. “People come from all over to enjoy our facilities and our beautiful area. Hood River is a big draw, and we have every reason to believe tennis will continue to thrive here.”
Beeson will be hosting a four-day junior developmental camp Aug 19-22 at the Sports Club. Anyone between the ages of 13-17 is invited. Call 386-3230 to sign up.