Editor's note: Tony Horton and his wife have lived all over the world. For the past 10 years, Tony has worked with the McCall (Idaho) Community Tennis Association and McCall Parks and Rec Departmet, with support from the Idaho District Tennis Association and Toni-Shea Sinclair, USTA Intermountain Tennis Service Representative for Idaho. The following is Tony's first-hand account of bringing tennis to Mexico this fall.
Sept. 27, 2016:
"I started with kids' weekly clinics in two locations in San Miguel de Allende five weeks ago, and added another one yesterday. The initial group was in a little village outside of town where the kids speak a local Indian dialect called Otomi as their first language. The organizing group, Ojalá Niños, runs an afterschool program to promote Spanish literacy and to give the kids opportunities to develop some other interests: arts and crafts, yoga and now tennis.
"There is no tennis court in the village, but the small center they have set up as a classroom has a concrete floor with cobblestone borders, and we've been using that as a "tennis court" with the net IdTA gave me. I've had as many as 14 kids in a group ranging from 4- to 10-years-old.
"I spent some time and donated some money and worked with some of the village fathers to level some land next to the center for an ersatz dirt court, but don't know if this will work out or not. One of the organizers of Ojalá contacted a nearby high-end residential development that has a nice tennis court, and I was able to take two of the older, more advanced kids there last week. Hopefully we can develop this into a more permanent situation.
"The second group is six kids who are related to a tech professional who has helped us with IT things around our house. They're three boys who are 4-years-old, and their sisters who are 6 and 7. All of the kids have done really well in developing some tennis skills, but even more so, working on their hand/eye coordination and footwork. The parents of these kids have really become involved, initially chasing down balls and now helping with some of the activities.
"Both of these are fun groups to work with. Two weeks ago, I met a young man who gives tennis lessons for the city at the sports complex, Centro Deportivo, where I teach the second group. I've started helping him with about 20 kids and plan to continue doing so every Monday evening. This group ranges in age from about 8 to 12. Some of the kids have full size tennis racquets, and yesterday I saw two squash racquets and a racquetball racquet. I gave out as many of the 23- and 25-inch racquets as I had, and got out 40 orange balls, and the kids were quite excited. The instructor's idea is to just hit balls at people and he seems receptive to some new ideas and assistance. Should be interesting and fun.
"Thanks so much IdTA for the donation of the net! It's not only helpful for teaching, but the kids also get a kick out of helping me set it up. I'll buy a few more racquets when I'm in Idaho this winter, and bring them down when we return in the spring."