Youths get racket lessons from pros

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The story is a familiar, pay-it-forward kind.

But it works. Does it ever.

Don Thomas, a newly minted U.S. Tennis Association professional, has brought his dynamic tennis camp back to the peninsula for the third consecutive season.

The Boys & Girls Club camp brings together youths as young as 5 to pick up a racket and learn the sport.

Thomas brought the camp to Sequim in 2008. That first year with his brother Bill, also a USTA pro, Thomas saw 47 campers.

This year, it's grown to about 90 campers by month's end and 21 volunteers, including coaches and professionals from the Port Angeles and Port Townsend areas to Sequim-area players, coaches and high schoolers.

"We have some good people (helping out)," Thomas says.

Thomas was about 4 or 5 and living near Sacramento, Calif., when some community tennis players showed him and his brother the ropes.

Now he's giving back.

"We're trying to promote the sport (toward) having fun," Thomas says, "and throwing in the rudiments of the game."

The benefits for the youths are obvious, says Mary Budke, the Sequim Boys & Girls Club director.

"They're engaged in physical activity; studies have shown (those in physical activities) are less likely to make poor social choices," Budke says. "And it's just fun."

She said that without someone like Thomas coming in and putting on the camp, these youths wouldn't get exposed to the sport until they get to high school since there is no organized club team or sport until then.

"(Don) works very diligently with this program, introducing them and giving them a love of a lifetime sport," Budke says. "He's building relationships with them."

Thomas made many of the contraptions that have turned the Sequim High School courts into what looks like an obstacle course. Players and helpers go through morning "briefings" about what they're going to learn that day, then begin activities that include forehand and backhand drills, baseball-style tennis games, one-on-one assistance and more.

Reach Michael Dashiell at

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