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Youth tennis camp still coming up aces for players

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Instructor Ron Zambrano works with Diana Ellen Hartunyan, 10, with her swing during National Junior Tennis Learning/Los Angeles 84/United States Tennis Assn. Camp at the Scholl Canyon Tennis Club.
(James Carbone)

GLENDALE — Maggie Cravens received quite a surprise.

The Glendale resident wasn’t sure what her summer plans would entail until she got some news from her mother. It turned out to be something new for Cravens, 10, to dabble in with for six weeks.

Cravens was informed that she would participate in the annual National Junior Tennis Learning/LA84/USTA Camp, which began June 17 and concludes July 25 at Scholl Canyon Tennis Center.

The event, sponsored by the LA84 Foundation in conjunction with the Southern California Tennis Assn. and the National Junior Tennis League, is designed to teach basic tennis skills like backhands, forehands and how to serve and rally.

Athletes also take part in drills, played games and on the final day of camp, are presented with a certificate of participation from instructor Ron Zambrano, who is the tennis coach at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and St. Francis High.

“My mom signed me up about a week before the camp began and I’m glad she did,” said Cravens, who attends Mark Keppel Elementary School. “I had never even played tennis before, but it’s been pretty interesting to learn from so many people.

“You learn to have all kinds of fun and it’s great to be able to learn from coach Zambrano about the game.”

The camp, which began in 2009 and has also been held at Glendale High and the Fremont Tennis Center under Zambrano’s guidance, attracted participants aged 6-14 mostly from Glendale, Montrose and La Crescenta. There are several camps within the foundation that take place around Los Angeles.

In addition to Zambrano, the camp features a group of assistant coaches, some of whom played locally in high school. The athletes are given racquets and T-shirts, provided for a fee of $10. The cost is subsidized mostly from funds from the LA84 Foundation, which has been supplying funding for athletic programs for more than 30 years with profits from the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

“It’s an unbelievable event and it continues to fill up quickly,” said Zambrano, who guided St. Francis to an appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division II quarterfinals last spring. “They know they are coming to a good camp to learn and have fun. That’s what it’s all about.

“Tennis just isn’t as popular as it used to be in the United States. For the people in the camps, it’s mostly an introduction to tennis. It’s better to be outside learning about tennis and getting exercise than staying inside and playing video games all day long. Maybe 30 percent will go on to play tennis in high school and here’s a good place to start and get ready.”

Zambrano stood near the net and hit balls to about 20 campers. The campers hit forehand and backhand shots over the net before heading back into line for further practice.

Emely Sarkissian, who attends RD White Elementary School in Glendale, made her first appearance to the camp in about five years.

Sarkissian, 10, said she received some encouragement from her father and brother to pick up a racquet.

“For me, it’s really exciting to be playing tennis again,” Sarkissian said. “I’m learning a lot from [Zambrano] because he takes the time to go over all of the drills. My backhand has improved.”

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