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Even in the dog days of summer, one teacher of tennis shows Sedona’s kids how it’s played.

Jeff Cooper, a local pro working with Sedona Parks and Recreation, teaches Fit Kids Tennis at the Posse Grounds Park tennis courts to, from left, Vrindy Silva, 12, of Cottonwood, and Sedona youth Sofia Zimmerman, 11, and Max Knaus, 14. Fit Kids Tennis has run for two afternoons each week, three times per day for the last nine weeks this summer.

“Each of these kids have certain things they’re great at,” said tennis pro Jeff Cooper, who gives lessons with the Sedona Parks and Recreation department. “Each of them kind of deserves particular credit for different things they do well.”

Just to get 22 Sedona youth, ages 8 through 14, to show up at the Posse Grounds Park tennis courts for an hour, twice-weekly, and practice their tennis skills under the smoke and sun of late summer afternoons may be deserving enough of great credit.

“In the summer, we skew later to avoid the heat,” Cooper said. “The times in the fall will be completely different from the summer.”

Those classes are tentatively scheduled to begin Monday, Aug. 25, Cooper said, after his three summer classes with six to seven students grouped in ages 13 to 14, 10 to 12 and 8 to 11 years old, conclude Wednesday, July 30.

“Most of our time is spent doing drills,” he said. “We work on just about every skill appropriate for their age level — forehand, backhand, serves, overheads, shot combinations, approach shot and volley.”

Cooper said he has dozens of drills.

While they do play some singles and doubles matches, Cooper’s students are otherwise engaged in combination drills, such as “Power, Depth, Consistency” and “Master Volleyer,” in which they work on a particular aspect of their game.

“Kids always seem to like challenges,” Cooper said. “They like values. ‘Power, Depth, Consistency’ is kind of a neat drill in which kids improve attributes of their ground strokes, forehand and backhand.”

So the drill is, in a sense, a game that keeps score, depending on if the ball hits the court, the net or the fence, or bounces. Point values are based on how deep and how consistently kids can hit the tennis ball.

“This drill always translates in tennis into very effective singles play,” Cooper said. “You can beat a lot of people if you can add power and topspin to your strokes. Lots of Grand Slam tennis players drive a lot of people crazy just by constantly keeping the ball deep.”

“Master volleyer” divides the tennis court into six distinct regions. The winner is the first to spell out the word “master” by volleying to the left and right service box, the left and right sides of the “big box” in the back of the court and the left and right alleys — in that order.

“Most of these kids are interested in playing for the high school when they get old enough,” Cooper said. “They are on track to form probably one of the strongest high school teams Sedona has seen in some time.”

Such future tennis stars include 13-year-olds such as Forrest Hartley, Kai Zimmerman and Tomi Trujillo, who is “best at improvisation,” Cooper said, with Zimmerman the best tactician in the group.

As for the 14-year-olds, Payton Taylor’s strength is aim, Cooper said, and as for Max Knaus, “His thing is power. Max hits the hardest of the bunch.”

The most consistent of the students in Cooper’s classes are the 12-year-old girls — Natalie Carter and lone Cottonwood student Vrindy Silva.

“She said something a couple of weeks ago about dreading being a teenager, but it’s fun watching her beat the guys at some things,” Cooper said. “Some of the drills we’ve done, Vrindy’s done the best: I did a poaching drill that attacked the return of serve, and Vrindy hit a target on the other side of the court. She had a big smile on her face.”

For the full story, please see the Friday, July 25, issue of the Sedona Red Rock News.

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