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Community tennis program in Woodstock picking up steam

Matt Smith Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central girls tennis coach Matt Smith wanted to find a way to keep his players active and playing in the offseason.

So last year he came up with the idea to have Tuesday Tennis, one night a week where the players could get together, play tennis and have fun at Woodstock’s W.O. Riley Park. One year later, the program, with a new name (Tuesday Night Tennis), has caught on and now community residents have joined in on the fun as well.

Smith said he added the word night to it because he heard of another school that was doing the same thing and calling it by that name and thought it would be catchy. He said he also opened the program up to anyone in the community and has had a great response.

“For me, it was just a way to get members of the team to come out and have fun, be social,” Smith said on Tuesday evening. “It’s the boys and the girls playing together. We’ve kind of opened it up for anyone who wants to come out in the community. And we’ve had a good mix of adults who are probably pushing 70 (years old) and we’ve had some kids right around 12 (years old).”

The program, which started in early June, begins at 7 p.m. each Tuesday and usually lasts until about 9 p.m. He said he’s hoping to keep the program going into October.

Mackenzie Ryman Rich Cooley/Daily

Smith said they usually divide up into two overall teams and then within each team two players form a doubles team. They usually only play doubles, depending on how many show up each week. They play four games at a time and then rotate with the winners moving up a court and the losers rotating back. The goal is to be the top team on court by the end of the night. He said they usually try to keep it to mixed doubles, but sometimes they do boys against girls as well. He said they usually end the night by playing a different type of tennis game, which gets everyone involved at the same time and ends the night on a fun note.

“It’s been a way to get them out here and have fun,” Smith said. “We’ve got such nice facilities here. And in the summertime, it’s hot to play in the middle of the day. So it’s better to come out in the evening and we’ve got lighted courts.”

Smith said he’d like to see even more people come out and play. He said usually they only play on four of the six courts, but he’d love to have to use all six courts.

George Swecker said he has been playing tennis for a long time and still plays regularly in leagues at Stonebrook Club in Winchester. The Woodstock resident, who said he will turn 64 later this month, has been a regular for Tuesday Night Tennis and said it’s been great to see people from the community coming together to play the sport.

“This kind of reminds me of back when I was in college and high school and we’d come up here in the evening and play,” Swecker said. “There were only three courts back then and you were lucky to get a court. You didn’t have to have a game set up, you just showed up and played. And that’s kind of what Matt’s trying to get going here.”

Tommy Lam

Smith said that it started out as something he wanted to do for his girls tennis team, which advanced to the regional semifinals this past season. However, he said that they’ve really enjoyed having other people from the community come out and join them.

“We’re blessed to have the great courts at Woodstock Park, and if anybody in the community plays tennis and would like to come out and join us, we’d love to have them,” he said. “My motive was to keep my tennis girls from the high school engaged and an opportunity to have fun and just to get out and improve their game.”

Smith said that many of his players have shown up on Tuesdays, and he has already seen an improvement in their games.

Central rising junior Mackenzie Ryman said the program has been a great experience for her.

“It’s been really great,” she said. “It’s been a good way to get practice in, but have more fun because there’s less pressure. And it’s been great to play with other people and see what their strengths and weaknesses are and work as a team with them.”

Tommy Lam, a 2018 Central graduate, said he’s also enjoyed playing each week. Even though he isn’t in high school anymore, he said it’s been fun playing with members of the boys and girls tennis team as well as others in the community.

“It’s a great time to get out and play with the up and coming players to help them get better for next year and to help them gain some experience playing,” Lam said. “And it’s still great for me as well, because I want to improve as much as I can even though I’m not playing anymore competitively.”

Swecker said he plays a lot with the high school players and tries to help teach them what he can about the game.

“Anytime we can help these kids that’s what we want to do,” he said. “Just watching the girls team this year they got some talent. So it’s a chance to work with them and show them how an old fogie hits the ball. There’s a few things that I know about the game that I can impart on them.”

Ryman said that she’s enjoyed playing with different people, including some of the adults whom she had never played with before.

“I’m meeting new people,” Ryman said. “Last week, there was somebody here, and I didn’t know who it was and I asked him and now we’ve started a friendship.”