A local teacher has started an after school tennis club to help students learn more and gain confidence.
What you need to know
- Dr. Sheryl Cohn believes tennis can help teach students
- The program began when one of her students asked her about her passion, tennis
- She says she is proud of everything her students have achieved so far
Sometimes a simple conversation can inspire an entire movement. That’s what happened this year at a Lake County Elementary School.
After school, Sawgrass Bay Elementary’s academic support teacher, Dr. Sheryl Cohn, directly to the tennis corner of her room.
“I thought it would be a good thing to do and fell in love with the sport,” she said, explaining how she started playing tennis in college.
For Cohn, tennis became a lifelong sport.
“Tennis is really an important part of my life,” she said. “I play mixed doubles every Sunday morning and it’s a very social thing.”
Now she has started sharing her passion with the students at Sawgrass Bay Elementary. And it all started because of one of her students in fourth grade.
“He said to me, ‘Oh, I did not know you’re playing tennis,'” Cohn said of the conversation. “I said ‘yes’ – I said, ‘Have you ever tried?’ And he said, ‘No, it’s a rich person’s sport.’
“I said, ‘If I get you a racket and I give it to you for free, would you try playing tennis with me?’ He said “sure,” and the rest is history. “
The Junior Tennis Club in Clermont began offering tuition in January with three students and two portable pickleball nets that Cohn purchased.
“I felt for beginning elementary students, it would be better because they would have more success online,” she said.
She bought rackets, and her tennis friends donated rackets and balls, and the club quickly turned into a smash.
“For me, sharing that love of tennis with other students is just a joy, absolute joy,” Cohn said. “They love it and I love watching them love it.”
Now the group is filled with 13 students from kindergarten to fifth grade. “Dr. Coach,” as she is affectionately known, said that all aspects of childhood development are covered – from socialization and sportsmanship to other things that are useful in the classroom.
“What they find out is physics, angles, math,” Cohn said. “When they hit a ball, and if they know they’re going to hit it at a 45-degree angle, they know where it’s going on the other side of the net.”
Andrea Webb plays basketball, but when she heard about the tennis club, she decided to give it a try.
“That should be fun, you know?” said the 11-year-old. “Can’t hurt to get a little bit more active. So then I came along and I realized I was really good at it.”
Both the fifth grade and her little brother, Dominic, are in the club and that helps keep them busy.
“I know sometimes kids don’t have much to do – playing video games or stuff – and after school it’s a nice little thing you can do,” Webb said. “I encourage people to come to Sawgrass and be in Dr. Cohn’s tennis club. You might be great at a sport and you do not even know it.”
Students also have a couple of assistant coaches who play tennis at East Ridge High School.
“Doing it through school gives them time to be active and just try different sports because some kids don’t know what sport they want to stick to,” said assistant coach Janessa Kendrick. “So it does not hurt to try any of..”
Kendrick volunteered and received community service credit, and she said she is very impressed with what the students have already achieved.
“I’m really proud of the group of kids,” she said. “A lot of the kids have not even held a racket before, so I think it’s pretty cool to see their growth and development from when they started.”
For Dr. Coach, she hopes the club can expand with a third net. And she has big dreams that her tennis students will hit an ace in the future.
“That the kids continue to love tennis continues, some of them get scholarships to college, and if they reach majors, I want free tickets,” Cohn said.