The women’s tennis team, Elon Athletics and Kernodle Center for Civic Life are working together to provide virtual tennis lessons to children at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Alamance County.
With their season cut short, members of the women’s tennis team could have easily focused solely on completing their virtual classes from home and starting their Summer Break. Instead, the team is using its expertise to help others in a time of crisis.
“They’ve always shown a really strong commitment to the community and just wanting to do things to give back,” said Head Women’s Tennis Coach Elizabeth Anderson. “Obviously they were really sad not to be on campus and heartbroken that our season was over, but from the very beginning they’ve always been very focused on helping others.”
It was that care for others that led the team to launch a new initiative meant to help local children stay active and connected during months of stay-at-home orders. Assisted by the collaboration between Elon Athletics and the Kernodle Center for Civic Life, the women’s tennis team has begun producing a series of tennis tutorial videos to teach students at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Alamance County how to play the sport. The lessons focus on the basics of tennis, from conditioning to fundamental techniques that can be learned without the use of equipment.
Olivia Archer ’22 and Victoria Saldh ’22 are leading the team’s efforts to produce the videos. The two say this is an exciting opportunity to share the sport they love with a younger generation while helping the students cope during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 is so restrictive in so many ways, but the internet has made it so we can continue to help,” said Archer. “I know it’s been exhausting for these kids, so it’s a really good feeling to help them, and I know my teammates feel that way too.”
Archer produced a jump-roping tutorial from her home in Cornelius, North Carolina. It is one of several tutorial videos the Boys and Girls Club students have been receiving from Elon tennis players around the globe. Saldh, for instance, produced her tennis tutorial from Sweden.
“During these circumstances, everyone is getting affected in one way or another,” Saldh said. “For a lot of children, it has been to stay in quarantine instead of being outside playing with friends and doing different activities. Therefore, we thought it would be a great idea for us to send out a tutorial of different tennis drills and skills.”
Continued social distancing guidelines mean this year’s Boys and Girls Club summer camp can support only a fraction of its typical number of campers, and field trips have been canceled all together. So now, the students who were able to attend this year’s camp stay active by gathering several times a week around a television or projection screen to learn footwork, conditioning and serving skills from Elon tennis players.
The tutorials are a continuation of the tennis team’s involvement with students at the Boys and Girls Club. For several years, team members have traveled to the Club in Burlington, North Carolina, to help young students with homework or spend time with them on the playground. The COVID-19 pandemic has not allowed the tennis team to meet with students face-to-face in months, so these videos are helping the group stay connected as they look forward to conducting these tennis lessons in person someday soon.
“They’re giving these kids somebody to look up to, and maybe they’ll aspire to be a tennis player, or even just pursue college or college athletics when they grow up,” said Boys and Girls Club Program Director Tara Nager ‘12.
The video project is part of a larger effort stemming from Elon Athletics’ partnership with the Kernodle Center for Civic Life. Andrew Stafford, student services and Elon Experiences coordinator for Elon Athletics, and Sarah Williams, assistant director for the Kernodle Center, are managing an NCAA grant that is focused in part on increasing student-athlete involvement in service, providing education around social issues and community engagement, expanding involvement in the Service Experiential Learning Requirement (ELR), and documenting the student-athletes’ service.
“This service from our women’s tennis team, literally done from around the world in their own homes, shows their phenomenal teamwork and dedication – despite the distance – to provide positive mentoring for our students right here in Alamance County,” Williams said.
Williams and Stafford hope the tennis videos are just the beginning of a larger effort to reach the local community through athletics. As the tennis team continues to produce videos for the Boys and Girls Club, the goal is for other teams to get involved in similar projects that address issues in surrounding areas.
“By being a student-athlete at Elon, they already have a platform, and they may not realize that coming in,” Stafford said. “So it’s important to show them that they have a unique opportunity, and we want them to take advantage of that.”
Student-athletes wishing to volunteer in the local community or learn more about the Service ELR can reach out to Andrew Stafford at firstname.lastname@example.org.