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Hawkeye tennis camp puts “fun” back in fundamentals

BY CONRAD SWANSON | JUNE 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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This summer marks the second year in a row that Iowa women’s head tennis coach Katie Dougherty has directed the Hawkeye Summer Tennis Camp.

The camp is being held all this week at the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex, hosting children of all skill levels and ages ranging from 9 to 18.

While some of the campers are locals, many others came from out of town. Because this was a day camp, the campers were not housed by the university, and they either stayed at home or with relatives in the area. Dougherty attributed the out-of-town crowd and a rising number of campers — she estimated the number of enrollees doubled from last year — to a more aggressive advertising campaign, largely over the Internet.

The campers appeared to enjoy themselves. Laughter and grunts of exertion could be heard echoing throughout the Klotz Outdoor Tennis Courts as the kids chased tennis balls back and forth behind green, mesh-like partitions.

“I think they’re having a blast,” Dougherty said. “By the end of the day, they’re sunburned and tired.”

That’s the extent of the injuries, though — athletics trainer Travis Williams said the tennis camp is one of the more low-maintenance camps he oversees.

Jesse Medvene-Collins, an Iowa assistant coach who just completed his first year with the program, helped run the show. Even though he is relatively new to the Hawkeyes, Medvene-Collins said this wasn’t his first time around tennis camps.

“I’ve done tennis camps every year that I’ve been coaching, and it’s turned out well,” the Washington, D.C., native said.

Medvene-Collins and Dougherty agreed that what makes the camps special is how they can work with the young players, focus on the basics of the sport, and watch budding stars come into their own and make progress throughout the week.

“They come in shy, and by Friday, they’re much more confident in their abilities,” Dougherty said.

A second week of the camp was supposed to be available from July 11-15, but officials canceled it because there were an insufficient number of applicants. Dougherty said she wasn’t worried, though, citing both the overall increase from last summer and what she estimated was about an 80 percent return rate from earlier sessions.

Dougherty and Medvene-Collins said they have high hopes for future camp sessions, and they will implement an even more aggressive advertising campaign and be more conscious of how the camp schedule lines up against other camps and activities in town. Those changes, Dougherty said, will likely draw new campers in the future and keep others returning.

For now, though, Medvene-Collins said he’s happy to work with the kids they have, and he enjoys being able to focus on fundamentals in a relaxed atmosphere.

“It’s a good change of pace,” he said. “Having the emphasis be on fun is great.”


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