Swinging the right way

SEBRING - It's a proven fact that youngsters enjoy many benefits from being involved in some kind of exercise or sports activity.

Noncontact sports like golf and tennis can be enjoyed for a lifetime, and the younger a person learns the proper fundamentals of a sport the easier it is to improve.

With that in mind, Horace Watkis, who is certified by the United States Professional Tennis Association, is offering tennis camps for youngsters ages 5 to 18.

The camps are for beginners to advanced levels and are held Monday through Friday at the Thakkar Tennis Center at the Country Club of Sebring.

This is the ninth year of the tennis camps which have been very successful under the direction of Watkis.

"I love working with the kids," said Watkis. "It's my dream to teach these kids the proper way to play tennis because it's a great sport and one you can enjoy for a lifetime.

"We can help anyone whether it's a beginner or an advanced player."

No matter what age or ability, Watkis is intent on all of the youngsters having fun while learning a sport that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.

"Having fun is what sports is all about," Watkis said. "If kids aren't having fun they won't

come back to the camps and they won't try to develop their game.

"I get a great deal of satisfaction working with the different players, and I love helping them develop a passion for the sport, and this is my way of giving back to the community."

The next after school tennis session runs from Jan. 6 through Feb. 28.

"These after-school camps are very popular," Watkis said. "We use all kinds of different drills to keep their interest, and we take several breaks to make sure everyone stays hydrated.

"We focus on the fundamentals of the game, and the kids really seem to enjoy themselves."

The after-school camp for beginners and advanced beginners, ages 6 to 12, runs 4-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the cost is $90 for eight weeks.

Tiny tots ages 4 to 6 are on the court 3:15-4 p.m. on Tuesdays, and the cost is $75 for the eight weeks.

The more experienced players practice 5-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the cost is $120 for the eight weeks.

Watkis offers private lessons for $50 per hour, and the Highlands County Tennis Association is always looking for new members.

With the tennis talent in the area, Watkis, who is from Jamaica and has been in Sebring for the past nine years, thinks there may be a diamond in the rough in the Heartland.

"I've seen the popularity of tennis in this area grow a great deal since I moved here," Watkis said. "There are a lot of outstanding young athletes around here, and helping people learn and enjoy tennis gives me a great deal of satisfaction."

Another goal for Watkis is to try to develop the junior tennis program into a feeder system for the local high schools.

"We want to support the high school programs by helping the kids to become better tennis players at an early age," the USPTA-certified pro said. "A lot of the players on the local high school tennis teams participated in this camp when they were younger. It's our goal to help kids develop their games in our junior program and then be able to play at a high level when they reach high school.

"You never know, with a lot of hard work and practice one of these youngsters might grow up to be the next Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams."

For more information about the camps or for lessons, contact Watkis at 414-2164.