Despite the rain and the threat of more rain, Jack Jernigan was out on the courts at Elkin Municipal Park teaching tennis to a group of young children Tuesday night.
There was laughter; there was a fast pace. As Jernigan called it, “a carnival atmosphere; a fun-type atmosphere.
“If they’re having fun, they are going to learn something,” Jernigan said. “It’s gentle exposure to tennis.
“It gives kids a chance to decide if they are going to be interested in tennis.”
“Jack’s great with the kids,” said Sandra Burchette. Her son, Nathaniel Burchette, took lessons with Jernigan last summer and is now hooked on the sport.
“I just absolutely enjoy what I am doing,” Jernigan said. “Mainly it’s just a lot of fun helping kids learn how to play tennis.
“It’s a game for life,” he continued. “It’s not about producing the next John McEnroe. It’s about playing with your family and friends.”
He’s been doing it for more than 25 years in the Elkin community and the enthusiasm is evident as Jernigan alternates games and gives instructions.
“I can connect with those kids,” he said. “But first of all, they have to have an interest. If they have an interest, I’ll find out how to work with them.
“The only thing I require of a student is that they want to learn. Then we start figuring out the best way to teach them.”
Jernigan said he’ll want to know if they play high school tennis, Division I college tennis, or just be able to play with their parents. “I try to take them where they want to go,” he said.
“I don’t have the credentials that some might have, but I’ll take them as far as I can.”
Usually, Jernigan works with Steve Mackie. Tuesday, Elkin rising senior Jacob Lyon was on hand to help Jernigan.
Jernigan follows the United States Tennis Association’s QuickStart program to introduce children to tennis. “You can create your own program with QuickStart,” Jernigan said. “We can do two days; one day. We decided four days.
“We try to show them a forehand; a backhand; a volley; more how to get the ball over the net.”
With QuickStart, players graduate from the soft ball Jernigan was using Tuesday to a harder ball; and then a regular tennis ball — usually by age 12.
Tuesday was the beginning of a four-day session that will conclude Thursday.
“There are no plans after Thursday,” Jernigan said. “Maybe after July we’ll do something.”
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-835-1513 or Twitter @elkinareasports.