Sports was more than a pastime for Sandy Thurman, it was the difference.
“I’m a product of youth programs, I grew up on the DeSoto Bass playground,” Thurman said. “Playing sports put me on a different path.”
The then three-sport athlete — baseball, football and basketball — Thurman played baseball at Central State University.
“Sports kept me focused,” Thurman said. “An idle child could get influenced by the wrong people.”
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Now an avid tennis player and coach, Thurman, 66, is thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce the sport he loves to a new generation of young players as part of the Grand Slam Youth Tennis Camp. The camp is a partnership between the City of Dayton Recreation and Youth Services and KTC/Quail Tennis Club.
“Tennis has provided me the opportunity to give back,” Thurman said. “And the camp gives these kids the opportunity to try a new sport.”
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The Grand Slam Youth Tennis Camp is designed for young players ages 6-13 who are taught the basics of the game. The four two-week sessions begin on June 10 at Jim Nichols Tennis Center and are taught by USTA-certified instructors. And the best part — the camps are free, made possible with funding from the Jack Heinz Tennis Fund for Kids, named after the tennis family’s patriarch who died in 2006.
“We want to give kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity to play tennis, a chance to give it a try,” said JP Heinz, manager of Kettering Tennis Center and Jack’s son. “My dad played tennis and he loved seeing the kids play. After he died — on the tennis court — we wanted to do something to honor his memory.”
JP is confident that his father would love nothing more than to see the smiles and hear the laughter that is a part of the nightly camp sessions at Nichols Tennis Center.
“It’s definitely a win-win,” he said.
No racket — no problem, as the young players also receive a new free racket from the USTA Midwest Ohio Valley division.
“They really cherish that racket,” Thurman said. “I’ve had parents tell me the kids are playing out in the yard with it and some of them even take the racket to bed.”
And tennis is a lifelong sport, so it’s something the young players can continue when they have kids of their own.
“Unlike a lot of other sports, like basketball and football, this is something the whole family can play,” Thurman said. “The kids also make new friends and have a lot of fun.”