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2017-08-11 / Features

Virginia summer tennis program teaches toddlers to teens

By Brian Miller
HTF Staff Writer

Top: Callie Mauston (center) gives instruction to a group of girls at Virginia’s Tennis in the Park program. Middle: Lynn Mauston (second from left) poses with (from left to right) Taylor Morley, Zoey Thyen and Brynn Rozinka. Bottom: Grant Gerlach holds serve. Submitted photos. Top: Callie Mauston (center) gives instruction to a group of girls at Virginia’s Tennis in the Park program. Middle: Lynn Mauston (second from left) poses with (from left to right) Taylor Morley, Zoey Thyen and Brynn Rozinka. Bottom: Grant Gerlach holds serve. Submitted photos. VIRGINIA – When Lynn and Jeff Mauston took over the “Tennis in the Park” summer program offered by the Virginia Recreation Department 10 years ago, attendance numbered 84 kids in the six-week program that runs from June to the end of July. Now, anywhere from 250 – the approximate attendance this year – to 300 kids join the program.

Before the Maustons took over, high school students typically ran the program each summer. It’s grown exponentially with adult supervision.

And they’re not all from Virginia anymore – kids from Mountain Iron, Eveleth, Gilbert and even one from Cook come to hit balls under the guidance of the Maustons, daily volunteer George Erickson and the dozen or so high school tennis players the program employs.

“Our main goal is to get kids out there,” Lynn said. “We want kids to get involved, to learn tennis, to enjoy themselves.” Noah, 13, Gabe, 11, and Sam, 7, are three brothers in the program. The two older boys have been involved for four years; Sam for two.

“They really like the program,” their mother Lindsay Aagenes said.”The Maustons do a great job of running and managing the program. There are a ton of kids! My kids don't like to follow an everyday commitment schedule during the summertime, so I’ve never forced them to go, but they picked to go most days.”

Another mom said she doesn’t have to get her kids up to go to the program – they were ready to go everyday.

“My boy Chace who is 13 and my boy Dane who is 10 participated (and) loved the program. I never had to remind them to get up and go,” Erin Powell said. “Because we live close, they were able to walk or ride bikes there.”

It’s not just for fun. Many kids have used the program to improve dramatically as players.

“My son Kasey who is 11 participated this year,” Tara Lamppa said. “I thought the program was fantastic. Kasey really looked forward to going each day, and he's made drastic improvements this summer. He's finally able to play competitively against his dad and sister.”

Though the program is relatively inexpensive - $75/summer – some kids can’t afford it. But there are scholarships available, about two dozen of which were awarded for this past summer’s program.

“The building used to be called ‘Tennis for All’ and that’s been our premise,” Lynn said. “We want everybody to be able to play.”

While the program is typically run on the outside courts, the kids also make use of the Virginia Tennis and Pickleball Club. Erickson, in particular, who comes during the largest session each day, takes groups to the indoor courts to hit balls. He’ll often bring a reward – a lei, for example – for hitting a target on the court, which he says gives his pupils a thrill.

“It’s just one of the things I enjoy,” said Erickson, who had the original idea behind the indoor tennis center and was one of its main backers.

“I love working with the kids. They get so excited. With all the kids involved, the more people you have feeding balls to them, the more they can hit.”

Erickson had been involved with indoor tennis in the Twin Cities after retiring early this millennium. When he moved back home – he’s from Virginia originally – the lack of tennis from October to March concerned him. His idea for indoor tennis came to life and solved that.

“It’s been nice because we haven’t had a rain-out in 10 years,” Jeff said. “When it rains or snows in some places, we’ve never missed a practice.”

Lynn added, “To have that availability, indoors, is really nice. We’ve never had to cancel.”

Erickson deflected any credit for the building; he credited the Maustons for the work they’ve done with the program.

“It’s really an amazing program,” Erickson said. “The Maustons put in a lot of time. It’s not something you do for the money.” Jeff, who went to the summer tennis program when he was growing up, credited his wife.

“Lynn does a good job with it,” he said. “She’s organized, thorough. She’s my boss. She kind of does it all.”

Jeff also thanked the community for the indoor facility.

“That’s a great community asset,” he said. “The community built that building, so we know who to thank all the time.”

The Maustons are thankful for the older student athletes who also work for the program.

“This provides jobs for them,” Lynn said. “Our kids have been great. They had to learn all the kids’ names by the second week, and they did a great job with that. It’s been a lot of fun and a good learning experience.”

The program is for second graders through seniors.

“We got quite a few senior high kids this year, which is nice,” Lynn said. “There’s a lot of socialization, and it’s a good place to be – out on the court.”

On Wednesday, the “Tiny Tot” program is for those in kindergarten and first grade.

“Sometimes, with the four-to-six-year-olds, I wonder why I’m doing this,” Lynn joked. “We try to hire some extra kids to help out. We have about 50 of them that we get on the court.”

This summer’s session is done, and the high school season is right around the corner, but Tennis in the Park will be back next year. Erickson plans to be, too.

Erickson, who is 84, quipped: “I like to associate with people younger than me. That’s getting easier every day.”

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