Two years ago Dawn Silverberg helped to start the tennis program at Pleasant Valley High School with head coach Haley Jackson.
Silverberg, a 1989 graduate of Pleasant Valley, has helped to start a community tennis program in Jacksonville this summer that has included four sessions of camps for children 10 and under and 18 and under.
The camps have been well attended with six to ten children in each camp. For some of the 18 and under tennis players a continuation of the camps has been participation in the Jacksonville Tennis Organization tennis league.
The league consist of four teams, Jacksonville, Faith Christian and two Oxford teams who play each Tuesday night at 6 p.m. through the 29th of July at the JSU courts.
Silverberg has played tennis for 15 years, playing in local leagues in New York where she lived for 20 years.
After moving back to the area Silverberg said she was anxious to see a tennis community build up here. “Tennis is a great game,” said Silverberg. “I want to focus on the community. It’s a great place and I want to give back.”
Knowing that she couldn’t coach high school and work with the children during the summer due to high school association rules, Silverberg decided to give up high school to focus on starting a tennis program and league in the summer.
Silverberg, who is USTA (United States Tennis Association) certified, was given a small grant to help bring tennis to communities that don’t currently have a tennis program. She received the approval in February. The USTA also gave 40 racquets to the after- school program at Jacksonville PARD.
Silverberg talked to Janis Burns, director of Jacksonville PARD, about the possibility of a tennis program. “She was all over it,” said Silverberg of Burns’ excitement. “You know how great she is, anything to help the community.”
Silverberg also talked to JSU’s Mark Jones about using the university’s tennis courts.
The summer camps gave a lot of beginners their first introduction to the game of tennis. “A lot of times it was their first time on the court, or even to hold a racquet,” explained Silverberg. “We started with picking up a racquet and the forehand grip. The 8 and under played on the mini court with a shorter net. The goal is to help them be successful. We use USTA sized balls for the 8 and under. It’s slower and easier to hit and has more control.”
The older camps, sixth grade through 18, while there were some beginners also had high school students who wanted to work on their game.
JSU assistant coach Scott Robertson and Olivia Nyugen, the No.2 seed at JSU, helped Silverberg with the camps.
Last week the Jacksonville Tennis Organization began league play. The team is made up of a combination of Pleasant Valley (Andrew Epperson and Caleb Kirk) and Jacksonville High School (Mark Meniola, Vanessa Stuckman and Anna Hamilton) players. Silverberg has been pleased with how well the players have gotten along, encouraging and helping each other.
Jacksonville lost the first match last week to Faith Christian 5-1 with Epperson getting the win for the Jacksonville team.
Silverberg hopes to see the tennis program grow and hopes to have a fall and spring program.
“Tennis is a lifetime sport and one of the best things you can do in high school that will follow you throughout your whole life,” said Silverberg.