Weekly tennis instruction a labor of love

boys-girlstennisThere was no hesitation on the part of Ashley Freeman when she was asked about starting tennis lessons for the Boys & Girls Club in Oxford.

Freeman, a tennis instructor at the Oxford Park Commission, has never run from adding more time with children to her schedule.

Every week, Freeman instructs area youth that normally wouldn’t be exposed to tennis the basic fundamentals about the game.

“Not everybody has access to rackets or courts or even instructors for that matter,” said Freeman, who is also the assistant tennis coach at Oxford High. “It was our ultimate goal to reach every child that we could; to get them on the courts and to have them learn to love the game of tennis like so many other people do.”

The program has now been in existence for a year. Leaders from the Boys & Girls Club contacted the United States Tennis Association about a grant to garner rackets and equipment for the children. The catch was finding someone to lead the program, which fell into place when Freeman heard about the initiative.

“I love children, they make my heart happy, so I told them I was their girl,” Freeman said. “They can’t pay, but that’s fine by me. Money is not the most important thing. This is a labor of love.”
Freeman said outside of the winter, she is on the John Leslie Courts every Wednesday instructing. Some weeks there are more players than another week, but each player that comes seems to love the experience, she said.

“We’re trying to build the program so that we can continue it year-round,” Freeman said. “Their little faces light up. Last week we had 30. But depending on the volunteers that I have, and that is usually high school kids – and the amount of instructors I can get out on the court – the more players we can bring out. Last week was a great week for us. We usually see between 10 and 30 kids.”

Members of the OHS tennis team volunteered their time last week, including head coach Louis Nash. Ole Miss women’s tennis coach Mark Byers has also spent time on the courts. Freeman said that she’s seen her students improve greatly over the course of the past year due to the instruction.

“They can rally the ball now. They’re learning the foundations of tennis, forehands, backhands, volleys, footwork,” Freeman said. “Over time, you can definitely see the progress. and it’s so cool. They’re excited and pumped up. It’s really been a neat time. We’re just trying to generate as much excitement for tennis as we can.”

Volunteers from the community are always wanted, Freeman said. Anyone actively involved in tennis locally who would like to volunteer their time, and knowledge, are also welcomed at the courts.

“It is hard to find volunteers on a weekly basis,” Freeman said. “That would definitely help us out.”


Twitter: @oxfordcitizenjd

About John Davis

Eighteen years in the business. Dedicated to providing the best local content for sports. Oxford, Lafayette, Ole Miss, youth sports, outdoors and the things nobody else wants to cover.