• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports

Woodford tennis team reaches semis at state

THE WOODFORD COUNTY Youth Tennis Team 14U squad celebrated a great season by reaching the final four at the state tournament. Front row, from left, are Claire Pinkston, Alena Trent, Addie Patterson,  Cassidy Stiefel, Simon Swansegar, and Parker Polk; back row, Sam Polk (coach), Evan Bentley, and Zachary Stiefel. (Photo submitted)

The Woodford Youth Tennis Team 14 and under group reached the final four in the state tournament held July 15 and 16 in Owensboro. The program was started in Woodford County 10 years ago and under the guidance of Rainey Johns, the program continues to grow every season. Youth tennis is trending upwards for many reasons, including the benefits from a health and fitness standpoint. The game can be picked up at any age and many people play the game well into their 70s and 80s. Team Tennis is the flagship program for the United States Tennis Association. Locally, the Woodford program holds matches against neighboring communities such as Frankfort, Georgetown and as far away as Richmond. The matches are broken down by having a boys' singles, girls' singles, boys' doubles, girls' doubles and a mixed doubles match. The program breaks down stereotypes of tennis as a solitary sport. Instead of being the lone player in the tournament, players have teammates who cheer for them and push them to do well. The matches are decided by how many total games won by each team instead of a traditional tennis match where the total number of sets decides who is victorious. "If a player lost their match but won a game or two, they still contribute to the team's overall score," said Coach Sam Polk. "When you see that one kid who has struggled to win a game against a tough opponent and then see their reaction, it's pretty special." "The program gets kids to play a lifetime sport and get to be part of a team atmosphere." said Johns. "Our 18U team just narrowly missed making the final four this year also, but instead of heading back home, they stayed and cheered on the younger team. I'm amazed at how far this program has come in the 10 years we have been doing this. We have a special group of kids who love the game of tennis and I hope will play for a long time to come. That 18U team were great examples for the younger players and should be proud of themselves. What a great season they had." Many members of the 18U team and some of the 14U have been active members of the Woodford County High School tennis team. "In the fall, we will have an eight and under program and also a middle school-aged program as well and are very excited about the direction that the tennis program is heading." said Johns.

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