Advantage, Kids

A Passyunk Square recreational site will host a local tennis association’s play day and pizza party

By Joseph Myers

Ever since he orchestrated the naming of the South Philly Tennis Association (SPTA) as an official nonprofit business entity in 2013, Passyunk Square native Bryan Hughes has loved disproving the notion made famous by Thomas Wolfe that “you can’t go home again.” This Friday night, the leader of the local United States Tennis Association (USTA) Community Tennis Association will oversee his organization’s free play day and pizza party at Capitolo Playground, 900 Federal St., an event that will kick off the SPTA’s winter indoor junior tennis courses.

“Since I grew up on Eighth and Federal streets, Capitolo was literally my home playground and the first place that a park leader hit balls against the wall with me,” Hughes said of his affinity for the site. “I spent more time there playing sports than I did being at my house. So, Capitolo has always had a spot in my heart. With the USTA Middle States mini-tennis formats, it makes it possible to pop nets up and have youngsters playing with small rackets and foam balls anywhere we like. Kids can play on the basketball courts, the back play area, or, in this case, the indoor room.”

Tennis has long held renown as “the sport of a lifetime,” so Hughes values initiating enthusiasm for the game at a young age. At this Friday’s event Hughes and his peers will instruct youths from 6 p.m. until 8:30 p.m., calling on slower-paced balls to assist with the learning curve and provide what Hughes promised will be “instant success and fun play.”

“They can bring their friends, get some tips, and have fun playing a new game,” he said. “We will also have a coloring contest where they can win a free summer camp membership worth over $300. Top this all off with some free pizza from J&J’s South Philly Pizza (1177 S. Ninth St.), and we expect a few smiles in the house.”

Hughes, a decorated coach who has guided programs in South Philadelphia and across the country, hopes this week’s event will attract local children to join the SPTA’s winter programs. The year’s sessions begin on February 15th and are priced at $50 for six weeks of instruction. Classes start at 6 p.m. each Friday at Capitolo. The eight-and-under crew play from 6 to 7 p.m. The 14-and-younger crowd play from 7 to 8 p.m.

Participants will pick up introductory instruction on grips and the swing patterns associated with forehands, backhands, serves, and volleys. Hughes will also have prizes and giveaways over the six weeks because, as he said, “Who doesn’t like swag?”

“Tennis is an individual sport, so you are playing the whole time and not just standing around watching others play,” he said. “Therefore, we make our practices the same. The engagement of our players is high and so is the amount of fun they can have. All kids love fun group games, so we have plenty of that, but our format gives the kids a chance to play individually, learn at their own pace, and have more fun in the process.”

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