Brookline Tennis Academy Teaches Good Sportsmanship

The 2010 Brookline Tennis Academy at Pine Manor summer program is underway.

The temperature is getting hot outside and the heat is also picking up at the Brookline Tennis Academy at Pine Manor.

The camp is in the fourth week of a 12-week summer program for kids in the Brookline area who want to learn how to hit a backhand like Roger Federer or how to return a serve like Andre Agassi.

But just having a good time is OK too.

"We try to give them knowledge, exercise, and hope they feel good about what they are doing," said director of the camp Shelly Mars.

Mars got the ball rolling with local tennis camps in 1984, and five years ago she moved this particular camp from the Waldstein Playground courts to the U.S. Open grade courts of Pine Manor.

She brought along good friend and longtime teacher Rodrigo Mendez with her to teach the basics of the game, and Mendez has also taught the kids to learn the game with passion and a sense of gamesmanship.

"A lesson that I learned from my father at a very young age was to learn to win as a champion and lose as a gentleman," said Mendez, who also teaches at the YMCA in Hanover, Sportsman's, Mount Alvernia and M.I.T. "When you win you want to compliment that opponent … When you lose, you lose with a smile on your face and you compliment the champion."

Both Mars and Mendez stress the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship over and over again to the campers, and part of that is why campers come back year after year.

Sasha Izrael, 17, has played in the camp since he was 4 years old, and now he works as a camp counselor. He said he loves to come back and teach the same kids, but word of mouth has grown the camp beyond places he thought it would be.

"The camp has definitely expanded," said Iszrael, who will be a senior at Commonwealth School in the fall.

But what it comes down to the most is if the kids are having a good time and learning in the process.

Brothers Judah and Ezrah Burstein are examples of kids who have been playing year in and year out in Mars' summer camp. The two brothers have been in the camp since they were in the youngest age division, and they both credited the coaches to their continued development.

"The counselors are always so helpful and always so nice," said older brother Judah.

Ezrah added: "The counselors are really great. They have the best commentary on how to get better."

Monday through Wendnesday of every week the campers will get a taste of the basics of all the array of possible tennis shots. The counselors will play games and other activities to make sure those lessons are sinking in, and come Thursday and Friday — when the week is winding down — the tournament will kick off.

The "round robin" where everyone will team up on Thursday during the doubles tournaments will take most of the morning and into the afternoon. Mars said trophies will be handed out and a sportsmanship award will be hand-selected by the older campers.

Friday will showcase the singles skills on the court in a tournament much like the doubles tourney.

But the camp doesn't pride itself on being super competitive, according to Mars, and the sportsmanship award is probably the top prize for any athlete to get.

"That's the kind of kid who if we ask them to pick up tennis balls they pick up tennis balls," Mars explained about the award. "They complimented their opponent and their partner, all of the good etiquette things."


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