The province may have limited indoor tennis court space, but Tennis Manitoba is finding ways to get kids active in the sport during the winter months.

Elementary students at Pacific Junction School (10 kids) and River West Park School (19 kids) took part in after-school programs once a week during the fall. Also in the fall, juniors participated in once-a-week evening programs at Sir John Franklin Community Centre (12 kids) and 17 Wing Fitness and Recreation Centre (four kids), with both programs resuming in January.

All of Tennis Manitoba’s school/community centre programs use progressive tennis equipment: shorter racquets for kids, low-compression balls and mini-nets.

“Just having the facility limitations we have in Manitoba, we have to use progressive equipment in very creative ways,” said Jared Connell, Director of Tennis Development/Head Coach for Tennis Manitoba. “That’s how we’re going to get interest in the sport.”

Tennis Manitoba has conducted clinics at Shaftesbury High School and Ecole Dieppe School so far this school year. Also, Casa Montessori & Orff School completed their fourth year of fall tennis at Taylor Tennis Club in early December with 28 students taking part in a once-a-week program.

“Schools are definitely an area we want to make a lot of growth in the next couple of years,” Connell said.

As part of that effort, Tennis Manitoba introduced the progressive tennis model to teachers at a Physical Education Professional Development Day on October 23 at Acadia Junior High School. On January 29, Tennis Manitoba will conduct a certification workshop for teachers at Constable Finney School.

Meanwhile, Tennis Manitoba continues to be active at community centres. The organization has programming at all three sites of the Corydon Community Centre: Sir John Franklin Community Centre, River Heights Community Centre and Crescentwood Community Centre. Programs are also held on the outdoor tennis courts at Norwood Community Centre.

In addition, Tennis Manitoba offers programs in the spring, summer and fall at the University of Manitoba.

The progressive tennis model used by Tennis Manitoba in its school/community programs allows players to maintain longer rallies and improve at faster rates. It’s a model that works well for players of all ages, said Connell.

“I’ve had multiple classes where I’ve had seniors and seven-year olds and they can take the same class,” he said.