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Old Mill Road to Tennis Success

December 13, 2018 12:02 PM

Racquets, balls and smiles fill the gym at the Old Mill Road (OMR) elementary school in Merrick each week during the PTA-sponsored after-school tennis program, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.  

The school’s PTA, with the help of OMR parent and avid tennis player Lori D’Antonio, became a USTA Community Tennis Association in 1998 and has been offering tennis programming in various guises since then.  

D’Antonio launched the initial tennis program with the support of Principal Laura DeLuca and the help of Daniel Burgess, past president of the USTA Long Island Region, founder of the non-profit Learning Institute of Tennis, Life Skills & Sportsmanship and a longtime tennis professional, along with Bill Mecca, now-retired USTA Eastern Tennis Service Representative. The trio incorporated tennis into the PTA’s “Walker’s Club” during the children’s recess. Students would first walk their laps and then pick up tennis balls and racquets for simple tricks like “toss, clap, catch” or hitting balls. Following the success during recess, the PTA opened the gym to families for events such as “Family Fun Game Night,” at which mini courts and hitting stations were set up for all to play. 

Wanting to build on the after-school tennis programming, Physical Education teacher Tom Biggins attended a USTA Train the Trainer Workshop where he “took the place of a student for a day” and was “taught simple but important techniques of how to properly hold a racquet” and how to incorporate a tennis program into a phys ed curriculum.  Biggins took what he learned and brought it back to OMR. “The kids really get into it,” he said. “Once the nets go up, it’s ‘go’ time.” Thanks to the USTA, Old Mill was lucky to jumpstart the program with the generous grant for “racquets, tennis balls, and nets to include up to 50 students,” Biggins said. 

Ten years later, Burgess and D’Antonio continue to have a presence in the school with an after-school tennis program for grades one through six.  They follow the USTA’s Net Generation curriculum to progress through the multiweek sessions. Adding tennis “was definitely one of the best additions to our program,” Biggins said. “Watching kids improve and grow a love for it, makes it all worth it.” 
Thank you to Skylar Ransom for this article. Skylar is a student at Calhoun High School and a graduate of Old Mill Road Elementary School.  She is a staff member of Calhoun High School's newspaper and an avid creative writer.