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District Partnership Teaches Tennis To Elementary Students

The partnership between the school board and the Cherokee Tennis Association will allow for physical education teachers to teach tennis drills to students.

The Cherokee County School District will soon introduce the art of tennis to some its elementary school students.

The Cherokee County Board of Education is set to approve a partnership agreement between the district and the Cherokee Tennis Association, which will provide training sessions to physical education teachers on tennis drills and skills.

The agreement, which the board will consider for approval tonight, will also call for the association to provide free equipment and curriculum to teachers to pass onto their students in the form of lessons.

The partnership kicked off Monday afternoon as PE teachers from 13 schools gathered at Indian Knoll Elementary School in Hickory Flat to participate in a three-hour workshop designed to teach tennis fundamentals.

Cindy Raftis, junior league coordinator with Cherokee Tennis Association, said the goal is to introduce the mechanics of a sport in which all children can enjoy.

"Tennis is an activity that everyone can participate in and it's a good fit for kids who don't make the football team," she added.

Scott Blackwell, president of the Cherokee Tennis Association, said the partnership is part of an effort to reach out to more people in the county. He noted the best way to do that was to reach out to local schools. 

The beauty of tennis, he added, is it can be taught to students at all different levels. He also said it's an excellent way to introduce physical activity to younger students.

"We want to keep the kids moving," he said, adding the next mission would be to expand the initiative to middle school students.

Each school will receive a quick-start net, 25 tennis rackets and four dozen tennis balls as part of their kits, Blackwell said. As part of the partnership, the association will sponsor a year-end spring tennis festival with participating elementary schools. 

Indian Knoll Elementary Principal Ann Gazell said the partnership is a great way for schools to help curb the rise of childhood obesity. She noted the state about two years ago implemented FitnessGram, which requires local schools to conduct an annual fitness assessment of all students in grades first through 12th. 

At the local level, she noted her physical education teachers have "worked diligently over the past two years to find unique and varied ways" to tackle childhood obesity at the local level. 

That's why the partnership with the tennis association was a no-brainer.

"Not only did this provide them with a new activity (and) sport for our students, but it also gave them the necessary equipment to do it with," she said.

Woodstock Elementary School principal Dr. Christy Bowling, who attended the kick-off event, added the key for getting students interested in physical activity is "to let them have fun doing something that could become a lifelong sport."

The partnership, she added, provides students with opportunities to play and learn the skills of a new sport.

"Teaching the students tennis provides a haven where they can get away from their over-structured lives and learn to move, play and create on the tennis court," she said. "Having the school take the initiative of students playing environment and having students recognize for themselves what effort is needed to excel is the basis for personal drive and motivation."

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