Local Youth & young adult

First CYO tennis camp gets ‘overwhelming response’

From left, Corbin Cordell, Michael Fournier and Gaby Utarnachitt sit in line in front of instructor Kaylien Do, from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, after winning a relay during one of the tennis camp sessions. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

by Moira Cullings

MERRIAM — Organizers of the first-ever Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) tennis camp held from June 1-3 hoped a few dozen kids would turn out.

After all, CYO is widely associated with the group sports it organizes during the school year and doesn’t typically offer camps during the summer. Nor has it held a tennis event in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

But they need not have worried.

“It was an overwhelming response at over 250 [kids],” said Maureen Goetz, director of operations for CYO. “I originally thought it would be 30, to be honest. I had no idea.”

The camp, held at Genesis Health Club in Merriam for kindergarten through eighth grade youth, was a roaring success.

Henry Barrier’s eyes are on the ball while he practices a drill at the first-ever archdiocesan Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) tennis camp, while Will Erkmann and Grayson Nguyen wait their turn. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

It was created to introduce kids on both sides of the state line to tennis and perhaps spark an interest in the sport that will continue to grow.

Players were broken up into three sessions based on age, and they rotated between different stations, where they learned a variety of skills and techniques from multiple instructors.

Amy Fangman, head boys and girls tennis coach at St. James Academy in Lenexa, director of tennis growth at Genesis and owner of Tennis West, joined Goetz in organizing the camp.

Amy Fangman, head boys and girls tennis coach at St. James Academy in Lenexa, shows the campers how to hold their rackets safely. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

To make it as effective as possible, she drafted up 11 pages of lesson plans for each of the other instructors, who came from St. James, St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and other schools in the area.

She also helped train the instructors the week before camp, so they were prepared.

All the work was worth it when she thinks of the possibilities for the youth who attended.

“What I hope they took away from the camp is you should always be open to try new things,” she said, “because you really don’t know what you’re going to like until you try it.

“I hope it’s something that the kids will keep playing.”

Francesca Milnes prepares for the ball during a tennis drill at camp. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

Hosting a tennis event in the archdiocese was a dream come true for Goetz, who has a passion for the sport and was eager to share it.

“When I was younger, my dad would take us out [to play] every Sunday,” she said.

Those memories have stuck with her throughout her life.

“Tennis to me is all about joy,” she said. “I could have the worst possible day, and it just brings me such joy.

“It’s a true gift that my father gave me. I’m hoping that families receive that gift and find the joy that I found.”

Maureen Goetz, director of operations for CYO, cheers on the players at camp. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

Although families might not naturally think of tennis as a go-to activity, said Goetz, its benefits are unparalleled.

“I think what’s unique about tennis is it’s such a physical and mental sport,” she said. “It’s those quick bursts of energy. It’s constant movement.”

Goetz added that tennis is an affordable activity for families to enjoy — with inexpensive equipment and free public courts around the metro — and it’s a sport that can be played for life.

Based on the smiles she saw at the camp, Goetz’s hope to spread the love of tennis is bearing fruit.

“There were also so many parents who inquired as to what the next step would be,” she said, “indicating their desire to keep tennis as part of a family routine.”

Michael Fournier practices his swing during CYO’s tennis camp. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

Robin Verhulst, a parishioner at Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, said the camp was perfect for her daughter Addie, a sixth grader.

“She absolutely loved it,” said Verhulst. “It piqued her interest enough that she wanted to go back and try it again.”

Verhulst said their family isn’t a “tennis family,” but they were excited to try something new.

“We liked that CYO was branching out and offering an individual sport,” she said, “which fits our daughter Addie more.”

Leona Walterbach participates in a drill at tennis camp. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MOIRA CULLINGS

The family is grateful for the organizers’ efforts to make the camp a success.

“I thank CYO for thinking outside the box of what they’ve normally done,” she said. “We appreciate the opportunity for our kids to be able to try different sports.”

Goetz hopes this was only the first of more CYO tennis events to come — now that she knows what kind of response she can expect to receive.

CYO hopes to host a family night later in June or July. More details will be posted online when they are available at: cyojwa.org. If you’re interested in learning more about tennis or opportunities to play, contact Amy Fangman at: playtenniswest@gmail.com.

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage its website, social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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