Tennis could benefit from Games exposure

One of the words frequently used regarding the Estevan 2016 Saskatchewan Summer Games was legacy.

There is the legacy of the improvements made to the sporting venues in the Energy City, thanks to the Games. There is the legacy of the great displays of athleticism and tenacity during the sporting events. And there is the legacy of increased exposure for the sports.

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One of the sports hoping to experience a boon following the Games is tennis, as several Estevan athletes thrived on the courts during the Games.

The Team South East entry of Clark Cabiluna and Aden Haywood, both from Estevan, had a perfect 5-0 record and won the gold medal in the male doubles final with a 2-0 (6-2, 6-3) win over Regina.

Meanwhile, in male singles, Estevan’s Hunter Wallster reached the semifinal round, but lost his final two matches and finished fourth.

Adding to the story is that all three players were new to the sport.

Ro Euraoba of Regina was the coach for Team South East in tennis. He visited local schools in June, and promoted the sport. Then he selected the young people who would represent the region.

They started practises on July 4, and worked for five or six hours a day.

“These kids didn’t know how to play tennis. They hadn’t held a tennis racket,” said Euraoba. “It was a challenge teaching them, but when people love the sport, they learn tennis, even though it was hard work.”

At the same time, the athletes didn’t have any bad habits to lose when they started practising last month.

Euraoba noted the parents also helped the tennis players get ready for the Games.

He was optimistic Team South East would be able to win at least one medal in tennis.

“I recognized that the doubles team was able to learn what is a high calibre of tennis,” said Euraoba.

The final was difficult for him, as he knows the families of the two players who represented Team Regina.

“The emotions were controlled, even though I was excited that we won the game,” said Euraoba.

There was one other local connection on the tennis courts, as Rylan Fichter and Aaron Madu of Estevan played for Team Prairie Central in male doubles. They lost in the bronze medal game.

Euraoba looks forward to tracking the growth of the sport in Estevan now that the Games are finished.

Arnold Betzema, the president of the Estevan Tennis Club, is optimistic that more people will be interested in the sport now that the Games are finished. Adding to his excitement is that the two courts at the Estevan Leisure Centre, and the two interior courts at Estevan Comprehensive School (ECS), have been refinished.

“The leisure centre is a wonderful place to play,” said Betzema, a longtime tennis player who was elected as the club’s president earlier this year. “And now there’s two more courts available at the Comp., which will make it really available for many more people to play.”

They also have wind breaks at the leisure centre, adding to the experience for players. The surfaces are great to play on, and he hopes more people will use the facilities.

The two outer courts at the leisure centre weren’t resurfaced, and Betzema said they probably won’t be upgraded until more people are playing the game.

The tennis club has used the courts at the Leisure Centre since they were constructed. Currently, members have to pay the daily or monthly fee for the leisure centre to access the courts, but the club is now working on a new arrangement with the city.

“A few years ago we did have a special tennis pass to use the tennis courts only, and we’re going to try to work with the city to try to establish that again,” said Betzema.

The club currently has about 20 members. While they never ceased operations, they weren’t active for a while. They had a meeting a few months ago, when they elected a new executive, and now they’re trying to attract more people. 

“We want to establish ladies’ night on Mondays and men’s night on Tuesdays,” said Betzema.

They also had a youth night on Aug. 4, and Betzema hopes it can become a regular occurrence. The young athletes who represented the South East at the Games will be joining the club.

“I worked with them a little bit at the beginning, with the help of Tennis Saskatchewan,” said Betzema. “They sent a coach from Regina to work with them, and I guess we all worked and collaborated together, and we’re very proud of what the boys did.”

Interest has been high so far, he said, and they have three months left in the season to get people playing. He predicts they could have eight to 16 players on the courts each night.

Membership rates will be $10 per individual and $20 per family for the year, and it will include a sleeve of tennis balls. The more members they have, the more funding they can receive from Tennis Saskatchewan.

The club also hopes to regain its affiliation with Tennis Saskatchewan. During the Games, they made some contacts with people from other clubs in the province, which Betzema hopes can yield more opportunities.  

Tennis provides great exercise, Betzema said. It’s a great way to socialize, and it’s fairly inexpensive when compared to other sports.

“The benefits of being part of the club are you’ll have access to clinics, you’ll have use of the ball machine, you’ll make contacts and connections with other tennis players, and we’ll have some social events as well.”

Three local players have gone through clinics and are now certified chair umpires.

Betzema took up the game in his 20s. He took some time off from the sport due to his family, and a couple injuries also kept him from playing, but now he’s back into tennis on a regular basis, and he is hoping it will grow, now that the Games are over.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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