Women’s tennis team gives back

By Demario Smith-Phipps

The women’s tennis team members thought they would be teaching kids at their annual junior clinics, but the kids taught them some lessons as well.

As senior Melanie Delsart told junior clinic participants to hit volley and backhand shots, she said she built on her fundamentals as well.

“Forehands and volleys are basic, but the basics are important,” Delsart said. “You can never be too good at the basics.”


The clinics help young players learn the essential rules and aspects of tennis, but these seemingly simple instructions can be applied to the collegiate level as well, she said.

“Sometimes when I’m playing bad, I have to remember to just go back to the basics … back to the fundamentals,” Delsart said. “I’m probably not where I’m supposed to be on the court or I’m not placing my shots in the right places.”

The entire team is involved with the clinics this year, coach Audra Nothwehr said. There are two athletes who teach  each clinic, and each member of the tennis team will teach three clinics.

“When I’m coaching, I pick up many of the mistakes I make while playing,” Nothwehr said. “Hopefully they will experience the same thing.”

Each session is $10 per child. They are held every Tuesday and Thursday from now until Oct. 18 at the SIU tennis courts. Participants of the clinics must be 12 years old and younger, and no pre-registration is required.

The clinics help promote the SIU tennis program, but they also help pay for the expenses of the team, Nothwehr said, including the team’s spring break trip to hone its skills.

Delsart, senior from Buenos Aires, Argentina,  said teaching young players has really increased her appreciation for tennis.


“I like tennis a lot. I think it is a very fun sport,” she said. “I’m happy to teach kids who  enjoy playing the game.”

Anita Lee, junior tennis player, said Delsart’s coaching ability is visible even outside of the junior clinics.

“Mel is always giving me great feedback on things I should improve on, she really knows the game,” Lee said.

Lee and Delsart, two of the tennis teams’ top performers from last season, said working with the children of the community has reinforced some skills they learned when they were just beginners.

“A big part of tennis is footwork,” Lee said. “My footwork has improved because I’m constantly telling my students to work on theirs.”

Stacey Strickland, a mother of a child in the clinics from Marion, said she strongly supports the junior clinics and SIU tennis.

“This program is a good thing for everyone involved because it is a great social networking tool. It teaches discipline and keeps my son active,” she said. “The clinics are taught by quality players who play at a highly competitive collegiate level. Who else would be more qualified to teach?”

Tristian Sanford, a 12-year-old participant from Marion, said he didn’t expect to see improvements in his game from the clinics so soon.

“I love being out here just playing tennis, but I’ve already learned how to serve the right way,” he said. “I just started playing, but I’m learning a lot and having fun.”

Adrian Martin, a parent of two children participating in the clinics, said the girls of the tennis team are excellent instructors and Nothwehr is doing an incredible  job with the SIU women’s tennis team.

“By putting on events like these, Audra is bringing more tennis fans to the games and she’s helping form a tennis community here in Carbondale,” Martin said.

Martin is also involved in Nothwehr’s adult clinics.

“It is something we can all enjoy together,” he said.

Lee said she enjoys her chance to teach the clinics and wants to leave her students with valuable lessons.

“Patience is key,” Lee said. “On the court when you are having a tough time, and in life.”