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News Transcript, June 22, 2011

After-School Tennis Keeps Children Active

BY TIM MORRIS, Staff Writer

Amy Protocharan returns a shot during the TNT Tennis after-school program at the Marshall Errickson School, Freehold Township. The program introduces tennis to youngsters and doubles as a fundraiser for participating schools. Photo by Jeff Grant The lack of physical activity on the part of America's youth has become a major concern in recent years. Michele Randell has a solution: Hit the tennis courts. Randell, a former standout player at Marlboro High School, where she played third singles on the team that won the 1991 NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title, and Stacey Schmid, who was an outstanding high school basketball player in Massachusetts, are the owners/directors of the Tiny Tots Tennis and TNT Tennis instructional programs that they have brought to schools and day care centers throughout central New Jersey. If the youngsters will not come to the tennis court, Randell and Schmidt will bring the tennis court to them. This year, Randell and Schmid have conducted their once-a-week after-school TNT Tennis program at the Marshall Errickson School in Freehold Township as well as at the Rumson Country Day School and in Holmdel schools. They are also active at day care centers with their Tiny Tots Tennis program, and they recently hooked up with the Howell Police Athletic League for a summer program that will carry over to an after-school program for the 2011-12 school year in Howell. "We want to bring attention to the sport in a fun and nurturing environment," Randell said of her and Schmid's goal. "They [children] learn tennis in a fun capacity." Randell said that in addition to learning tennis, the children can gain positive self-esteem through the activity. Interest has been strong for the afterschool program. The TNT program at the Errickson School had three sessions this school year, and the numbers increased for each session. "A lot of the children seem to enjoy themselves," Randell said. To participate, it does not matter whether a child has touched a tennis racket before. Randell and Schmid teach the fundamentals, from footwork to how to hold the racquet, to how to hit a forehand or backhand shot.

The program is all about introducing tennis to children and providing them with an after-school activity. Even if tennis is not their sport, they are doing something physical. Of course, there is always the possibility that a youngster who is a diamond in the rough will stick with the sport and become a great player. Randell and Schmid, who both live in Freehold, met at the day care center where their children were enrolled. The two women noted that there were not a lot of physical activities for the children. "We had the idea that they needed an extra activity in day care," Randell said. Since both were tennis players (after basketball, Schmid turned to tennis), they decided to start Tiny Tots Tennis for day care centers. They then expanded to TNT Tennis for grade schools up to eighth grade. This was their first school year and their programs are taking off. The after-school tennis program is also profitable for the schools. "We use it as a fundraiser," Randell said. "We give a certain percentage back to the schools." This year they raised $2,000 for the Barkalow Middle School in Freehold Township and more than $1,000 for Holmdel's K-3 schools in one session. In these times of school budget cuts, that money is welcome revenue to a school. Randell and Schmid have found a way to make tennis fun for children and profitable for schools. That would be called a clean winner in tennis terminology. For more information, visit the Internet website at www.tinytotstennis.net or call 732-682-6128 or 732-979-1776.

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After-School Tennis Keeps Children Active

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