In its first year, last summer, the Hudson Tennis Association had 23 kids come out for the "Little Pro" Tennis Camp. This year the number of 5- to 10-year-old participants more than doubled to over 50 boys and girls and is still climbing.

"Our intent with the Hudson Tennis Association started with the idea of providing opportunities in tennis for all ages and abilities, with a specific focus on youth development," said HTA president and founder John Knutson. "Man, you can see that our kids love the program."

Knutson said HTA volunteers Jeremy Palm and Lori and Mike Dunn have taken the reigns and are doing a spectacular job with this year's program, managing the administrative duties of marketing and promoting the camp, which has doubled the number of participants, and procuring promotional items like the mini tennis rackets and products given to the kids. On top of that, they also organize all the volunteers to pull it off for eight weeks.

"Jeremy Palm does a fabulous job of ensuring the kids have fun with the games and activities on the court," Knutson said. "The fact that the kids not only want to come back again but can't wait another week for the next session says it all. Lori, Mike and Jeremy are ensuring that we're fulfilling our HTA mission to instill a passion for the game with these kids."

The Hudson Tennis Association has worked with the Hudson School District to reserve four courts for the kids to play on, once a week on Thursday nights from 6:30-7:30p.m. The camp started on Thursday, June 6, and will run every Thursday through August 1, with the exception of Thursday, July 4, for the Independence Day holiday.

A typical session for the kids includes starting with games like "Catch the snow cone" or "Walk the Dog" to get the kids moving and develop a feel for them holding the mini tennis rackets and contacting the ball, or using hand-eye coordination to toss a ball up and catch it. HTA also has stations set up where smaller groups of players will rotate from hitting the ball over the mini nets in a rally format, or hitting a ball hovering in mid-air on one of the two machines that HTA has purchased for kids to set a ball on a stream of air, and then hit forehands or backhands into a fence or net.

"As a Hudsonite, and former HHS tennis player myself, I was excited to see how many kids registered for the camp this summer," Palm said. "The USTA provides us with a lot of great activities and our main goal is for the kids to have fun playing tennis. To see so many young kids, and their parents, come out to play the life-long sport of tennis is encouraging for the future of tennis here in Hudson. I'm happy to be part of the Hudson Tennis Association and glad we can offer these youth development and tennis opportunities."

As a testament to the program's effectiveness, Ember Hutton, mother of two "Little Pro" Tennis Camp participants from 2018 and again this year, said, "I feel very fortunate that my kids have the opportunity to learn the basics of tennis in a fun and supportive environment. Little Pros is a fantastic program and something we look forward to every week. My kids ask, 'When do we get to come to tennis again?' before we are even off the courts."

For the registration fee of $50 for the eight sessions, the Hudson Tennis Association "Little Pro" Tennis Camp provides all participants a new mini tennis racket, and then also provides several promotional items to the kids throughout the sessions such as tennis ball drawstring bags, which can hold their new rackets and personal belongings and also several other give away promotional products provided to the kids like racket dampeners with emojis, tennis racket & ball key chains, water bottles and more.

"It's been great to see the level of interest and excitement for the little pro's program," Lori Dunn said. "Interacting with kids from our community showing an interest in tennis, getting exercise, and having fun has been extremely fun and rewarding."

In addition to the youth tennis camp, the HTA also runs spring and summer middle school aged programs where youth in 6th, 7th and 8th grade practice together and then compete against other communities who also have interested middle school aged tennis players. With the 2019 spring season just finished, the HTA will publicize information on their website in the future for the fall season of middle school aged tennis for potential participants.

As another incentive to promote the sport of tennis to all ages and abilities, especially within the families, the parents of the "Little Pro" registrants are invited to come out for beginner lessons while their kids are participating in the "Little Pro" camp. Knutson said the HTA offers free beginner lessons to any parents of the youth so they can be together as a family and hopefully will someday go out to the courts and play together.

For more information on the "Little Pro" Tennis Camps, or adult beginner lessons, visit the HTA website at www.hudsontennisassociation.com.