Junior Team Tennis a good introduction for younger players

Junior Team Tennis a good introduction for younger players

Jun. 22—There are 70 players signed up for the Junior Team Tennis program that goes on two days a week at Moreland Park.

That number is large enough to create some scheduling backlogs on Tuesday and Thursday mornings when the program is going full swing for three hours each day.

“We can only handle 48 at a time with the courts we have, sometimes we have to be creative,” said Jack Etchison, a long-time teacher and coach in the area. Etchison runs the program for the ODCTA (Owensboro Daviess County Tennis Association), and he is the Daviess County High School tennis coach.

“We pick up teams, one day this kid can be captain, the next day this kid, so they can get to be leaders,” Etchison said. “The teams play each other, play a pro set, then switch them up. We’re out here for three hours. A lot of them are best friends or they all ride together,”

The skill levels would be intermediate to advanced, with middle school kids up through high school ages. Apollo, Owensboro Catholic, Owensboro, Tell City (Ind.), Muhlenberg, Henderson counties were all schools or places that have players in the JTT program.

“We used to do instruction but now we just do match play, I wander around giving them tips and stuff,” Etchison said. “It culminates with a state junior team tennis tournament, we’ll send a couple of teams, it’s been in Owensboro in the past. They have to be able to keep score and in general know how to play, that eliminates the beginner of it .

“Going into middle school they haven’t played tennis, they have to get used to keeping score, play doubles, mostly they’re just having fun. We’ve got seniors who are done with their high school careers who will show up. A lot of them are out here.”

One of those was Charly Hayden, who played for Daviess County and will play for Brescia as a freshman this coming school year.

“We did this when we were kids, I did Junior Team Tennis when I was 10 or 11, we won the state team tennis when I was younger,” Hayden said. “I’ve been doing Junior Team Tennis forever. Now, we assist Jack, jump in if we need to, help the new players. I really like tennis, I like to watch them, they enjoy it.

“I like everyone playing, I don’t want them quitting. I really like coaching, sometimes I like coaching better than playing. I like to feed tennis balls for them to hit, joke around with the kids, watch them get better through the years. It’s awesome, it’s really cool.”

Dylan McDuffee will be a senior at Kentucky Wesleyan College, where he’s played tennis all four years. McDuffee and his partner, Chris Salamah, got to the quarterfinals of the 2019 State Tennis Tournament when they were seniors at Daviess County. That was McDuffee’s senior season at DC and he could remember it like it was last week.

“We lost to the two seed, and they went on to win it,” McDuffee said. “We made it pretty far.”

He said he’s glad he kept going with tennis, and he too enjoyed working with the younger kids and helping divide up teams.

“It’s been fun, a little rocky at times, but I like my teammates a lot,” McDuffee said. “I’m definitely glad I stayed in it.”

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