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Youth tennis festival slated

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The North Country Tennis Association and the Watertown YMCA have collaborated with the USTA to bring a youth tennis festival to the area this weekend.

The event is scheduled for Saturday at the Fairgrounds YMCA with a division for 5-7 year-olds at 9 a.m. and 8-10 year-olds at 10:30 a.m.

USTA Eastern representative Joe Steger said the program is more of an introduction to the sport for young kids than it is an instructional experience.

“Our mission is to promote tennis and try to grow the game,” Steger said.

“It’s a chance for kids to have fun with tennis, and hopefully develop a liking for the sport if they don’t have it already,” he added.

Steger, who is flanked by a group of volunteers, said the atmosphere will be similar to that of a carnival.

Kids will use modified equipment with smaller rackets that are easier to handle than the standard size, and bigger balls that will make it easier for kids to rally.

“It’s certainly fun for us,” Steger said. “We always have a lot of smiling faces when we do these things. You feed off the kids and hopefully the kids feed off of us, and we usually have an upbeat hour and a half session.”

Steger said the USTA Eastern group, one of 17 regions in the nation, provides similar programs across the state and in parts of northern New Jersey for kids of all ages.

This will be the first time USTA Eastern has come to the area.

Steger said the event was organized by Black River resident Jim Newell, who leads the NCTA, a group trying to bring an indoor tennis center to the area.

Steger said they also hope to promote the city parks and recreation department’s summer tennis program.

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