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Kessler Brings Elem. Students, Parents Together with 10 and Under Tennis

May 7, 2013 09:17 AM
Mark Kessler with Tennis Festival organizers and prize winners
Festival participants and organizers
The USTA 10 and Under Tennis format's sweeping popularity in the U.S. is due to the ease in which it allows children to quickly learn the game with kid-friendly equipment. It has also proven a family-friendly format, allowing parents who don't have tennis backgrounds the opportunity to get on the court and immediately rally with their children.
Mark Kessler, a physical education instructor at Michigan Avenue Elementary School in Saint Cloud, Fla., (located just below Orlando) grew up as a tennis player. When he saw a USTA Florida promotion for Tennis Festivals in March, the father of a young daughter took it upon himself to organize a school event where both students and parents could take to the courts.
"I thought this would be a great way to invite the student's parents out to share in the fun their son and daughter is having with this lifetime sport," said Kessler, who had earlier started a USTA Kid's Tennis Club at the school. "Also the USTA had this great offer for anyone interested in having a Tennis Festival for the month of March, providing a banner and items to give away."
The Tennis Festival was part of the school's "1st Annual Parent-Student Day," and included four tennis stations for participants: Bounce and Catch; Bounce, Strike and Hit; Racquet Quickness; and Tennis 4 Square.
"The turnout was overwhelming, seeing parents and Tennis Club students and families work together in the four stations," he said. "It was great to see all my students with their parents assisting them in all the stations, and parents and students and siblings working on basic tennis skills."
Music played throughout the event and youth tennis racquets and low-compression youth tennis balls were given to students and parents as prizes. Kessler was a USTA junior tournament player growing up, and played as an adult until he was sidelined with foot surgery.
"I played on my high school tennis team and continued playing tennis for my country club teams as well," he said. "I really enjoyed playing the game and it taught me some important lessons in life. I do miss the game but enjoy passing what I have learned on to my kids."
Seeing the parent support reminds Kessler of the encouragement he received in his youth from his father.
"I dedicate my involvement in tennis to my father, who supported me through the bad and good times of my tennis career," he said. "He acted as my first coach, giving me pointers while playing with me. He got me involved in the USTA tournaments, coming out to all my matches. He kept track of good and bad mistakes so anything we needed to work on he would do so to better me as a player for my future matches."
The Michigan Avenue Elementary Kid's Tennis Club and the USTA Tennis Festival were also part of a broad effort by Osceola County schools, which provide tennis training to teachers.
"We have had several fantastic 'Teaching Tennis in Schools' trainings in Osceola County which have resulted in the majority of our elementary schools providing tennis skills and activities in their physical education curriculums," said Osceola schools' Physical Education Resource Teacher Susan McKay. "It is wonderful to see these efforts culminating in a successful parent-student event like at Michigan Avenue Elementary, with parents and students participating in tennis-based activities during after-school hours."
Mark Kessler was named the USTA Florida Volunteer of the Month for April 2013 for his efforts in bringing parents and students together on the tennis courts on Osceola County, and introducing new generations to the "Sport of a Lifetime."
"This will be something our school and the Kid's Tennis Club will continue to do to bring awareness of this lifetime sport to students and family here at Michigan Avenue Elementary School," he says.


Birthplace: Dallas, Texas
Family Members: Jennifer Kessler, Abby Schneider, Stephanie Leung
Favorite Movie(s): Matrix, Too Fast Too Furious
Favorite Food: Steak
Favorite Travel: France
Favorite Shot: Backhand
My earliest tennis memory was..."getting interested in tennis when visiting my Aunt out in Dallas and having an opportunity to play at her tennis club."
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be..."actually I have several: John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, and Steffi Graf."
When I am not playing tennis I am..."riding my bike, being a father to my daughter, or relaxing in my pool at home."
My best-ever tennis memory is..."when I got a chance to see John McEnroe and have him sign my shirt when our local tennis team got asked to help out at a tennis event at Orange Lake."
I like to volunteer in tennis because..."I enjoy helping my students learn a lifetime sport and seeing the progress year after year. Also, seeing my tennis students' excitement and talking about tennis."





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