For the youngest of tennis students, whether they are prodigies or simply children exercising on a summer day, coaches say the most important lesson is to have fun.
Consider Daniel Levine. The 7-year-old from Topanga Canyon smiled as he crossed a clay court Tuesday and swatted balls across the net during this last week of instruction at the Top Seed summer tennis academy at the Calabasas Tennis and Swim Center.
Instructor Jamie Macias, a 17-year-old Chatsworth High School senior, said instead of drilling the students, games are used to teach the kids tennis skills.
And with the recent triple-digit temperatures, water breaks--including dousings with a hose--are a fun, but also crucial, way to stay cool.
"Next time, I'm gonna put water in a jug I have and put it in the freezer," Daniel said during a break.
As he sweated through his T-shirt, Daniel added that Tuesday was his last day but that he planned to come back next year. Parents enrolled children as young as 5 in the camp this summer. Such pint-sized students of the game generally use special rackets.
"They have a smaller grip and the racket is fairly smaller than the adult-sized rackets," Macias said. "And they're a lot lighter."
Participants younger than 8 do not play matches. Instead, instructors guide them through a series of drills to help them learn proper techniques for hitting and serving.
"You can see if they have natural ability," Macias said. "You can relate these little kids to older kids and you can say, 'My gosh. He's gonna be like so-and-so.' "
After-school lessons will start at the tennis center Sept. 14. For more information, call (818) 222-2782.