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More than fun and games at annual Fremont Tennis Center camp

GLENDALE — With time on their hands and looking for something constructive and fun to do during their summer break, 14-year-olds Elin Alexan and Preny Baghoomian found just what they were looking for.

“We’re best friends, so we wanted to so something together because we had the time during the summer,” Alexan said. “But we wanted to do something fun as well.”

They discovered the perfect solution in a six-week tennis camp that began June 23 and concluded Thursday at the Fremont Tennis Center. The event was sponsored by the LA84 Foundation, in conjunction with the Southern California Tennis Assn. and the National Junior Tennis League.

“I play tennis, that’s my hobby. I just like being outside and playing and this was a good opportunity for me to do that,” Baghoomian said.

“It was really fun for me and I learned a lot of techniques that I didn’t know before. It was really a good experience.”

The camp, which began in 2009 and is geared for players age 6-16, enjoyed a boon this year, as a record 82 athletes took part.

Supervising the young players was camp director Ron Zambrano, who also coaches the St. Francis High and Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy tennis teams. Along with daily exercise and warm-up sessions, campers also took part in a variety of technique drills and some got a chance to take part in simulated matches.

“The main thing is to have fun and it seems like the kids really had a lot of fun this year,” said Zambrano, who is the tennis professional at Fremont. “That’s why they’re here; if it’s not fun, they don’t come.

“Our goal is, and it’s something we stress at the beginning, for the kids to come out and get the exercise. Some of them might not get a lot of exercise during their day and we want them to get it when they come out here. The second most important thing is we work on the tennis skills and then we do some fun drills. We also do some competition tennis so they know what that is.”

Erik Sarkissian, 10, was one of the players who braved the soaring temperatures and humidity Thursday. Although Sarkissian said he could be lounging around at home or playing video games to pass the time during the summer, he preferred to be on the tennis court taking part in the camp.

“I like it a lot better here because you can have a lot of fun with your friends, you get exercise, you get to learn tennis and sometimes you can even find new friends,” he said. “It’s also great because I have really learned a lot. By playing here I have improved my serving and my backhand.

“But it does get hot out here sometimes. When it’s hot we usually get longer water breaks and we try and stay in the shade more.”

Along with Zambrano, the camp featured a group of assistant coaches, many of whom are the coach’s current or former players. In addition to the instruction, the athletes were also supplied with rackets, provided for a nominal $10 fee. The cost is subsidized mainly from funds from the LA84 Foundation, which has been supplying funding for athletic programs for 30 years with profits from the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

The camp began five years ago at Glendale High and moved to the Fremont Tennis Center in 2010. Reggie Perry, a lifelong Glendale resident, was instrumental in first bringing the camp to the city. She said the funding from the LA84 Foundation is the reason why the event has been able to survive and thrive for five years.

“When the [LA84 Foundation] has been able to do for 30 years has been fantastic,” Perry said. “And it has not just been money for tennis programs, but it’s for all the sports and it has really benefited a lot of kids over the years. What they have done for sports programs is amazing.

“When we first wanted to bring something like this to Glendale it was not easy. The first one that we had was at Glendale High and that was a disaster. I think Ron had just one session and had something like 25 kids. Then we moved it here to Fremont and that’s when it started to take off and it has continued to grow.”

Zambrano said he is indebted to Perry for her hard work in helping the program grow.

“She is the one who has kept us together,” he said. “She’s my connection and she has given us a lot over the years. We can’t thank her enough.”

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