COVINGTON — This past summer was a big deal for the Covington Family YMCA. It was on June 21 when YMCA officials, partners, supporters, members and tennis players gathered to officially open two new tennis courts.
It was also a day to celebrate 10 years of progress building the Y’s tennis programs and a day to look forward to the expansion of those programs.
About 10 years ago, the Y’s Board of Management and leadership team observed a need for tennis instruction and play in the Covington area. With a bit of funding from the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, a program was started with Dave Matthews as the first tennis coach.
At the time Matthews worked at several YMCAs and started coming to Covington twice a week with a couple of colleagues. They coached children participating in the Y’s summer day camp. He painted lines and installed pop-up nets on the blacktop pad west of the Y’s After School Building.
That was the Y’s first tennis program and those were its first courts. The children loved it.
“Dave was incredibly passionate about children playing tennis and it showed,” said Louly Hay-Kapp, executive director for the Covington YMCA. “Putting tennis rackets in the hands of kids who were completely unfamiliar with the sport was so rewarding.”
A local tennis player, Heather King, began coaching tennis in the Covington Y’s after school program. “She coached with the same spirit as Dave,” said Hay-Kapp. “Giving her time and helping to generate more and more interest in it.”
Then about nine years ago, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta received a donation from the BB&T Atlanta Open tennis tournament. The Covington Y was given some of that money and used it to buy nets, racquets and balls, giving Matthews and King more to work with and ensuring that the Covington Y’s children had the equipment they needed.
Regarding those first 10 years of tennis, Hay-Kapp said, “The role of the Y is to provide as much opportunity for children and adults to play sports and be as active as possible in any avenue as possible. Having grown up in Newton County and seeing what children can do in larger communities, I want to keep offering more and more to children in this community. Once I saw some of those first children make contact with the ball and knowing they had never picked up a racket before and weren’t familiar with tennis, I just knew we had to keep pushing.”
Three years ago Gwen Blount replaced Matthews coaching the summer day camp children and added cardio tennis to the program.
Cardio tennis is a third way to play tennis along with singles and doubles play. Its focus is on giving players a workout while playing tennis.
With the full support of Y’s Board of Management, a fund-raising campaign was launched last fall. And, thanks to the generosity of local donors the funds needed to build new, lighted courts were gathered.
Sunbelt Builders began construction March 2019. The courts’ colors were picked to match those of the U.S. Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center where the U.S. Tennis Open Championships are played.
Nearly immediately after opening its new courts in June, the Covington Y expanded its team of coaches and tennis programming.
The coaches now include Blount, Angie Martin, Yancy Waldo and Jonathan Bennet who continue the Y’s legacy of passionate and compassionate coaching.
Lessons, classes and match play are available for children and adults. As for all Covington Y programs, financial assistance is available based on need.
What is the future of tennis at the Covington Y? “We started small in hopes that over the years we could expand and possibly develop a full program,” said Hay-Kapp. “The possibilities are limitless for lessons and teaching for young and adult players. Should the program continue to grow, there is room for more courts at our outdoor center.”
Waldo added, “The way I see it right now, this is new, so my objective is to get people to join the Y and play tennis. My objective is always to get people to play tennis because it is the best game in the world. There’s nothing that comes close.”
The hourly rate for one-on-one training with a certified YMCA tennis instructor varies between $25-60.
Weekly group clinics for all ages are available at select times varying between $10-20 per person.
Visit www.ymcaatlanta.org/program-locations/tennis/covington.php to see the Covington YMCA tennis schedule and upcoming clinics.