Nine-year-old Crystal Rieckhoff of Port Angeles gets instruction from tennis pro Don Thomas of Sequim at the Sequim High School tennis courts earlier this month. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Nine-year-old Crystal Rieckhoff of Port Angeles gets instruction from tennis pro Don Thomas of Sequim at the Sequim High School tennis courts earlier this month. (Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

SPORTS: Free youth tennis academy, tournament coming to Sequim

SEQUIM — As in previous summers, Sequim tennis pro Don Thomas is trying to pass on his love of the sport.

Thanks to a bum knee, he said, this may be his last season of free lessons, camps and tournaments.

“I just want to bring tennis to the kids and promote the game,” Thomas said.

He and volunteer coaches are expecting nearly 40 area youths to flock to the Sequim High School courts for a summer tennis academy set for July 18-22.

He’s also hoping the academy will lead to a strong turnout for the annual Juniors Tennis Tournament, set to start July 25. Open to all players ages 18 and younger, trophies go to the top three in each division separated by age and gender; divisions include boys and girls 18-and-under (18U), 16U, 14U, 12U, 10U, 8U and 6U.

Courts are specially designed, Thomas said for youngsters. Those 10 and younger play on 60-foot courts with pressure-less balls while those in the 8U and 6U divisions play on courts as long as standard courts are wide, with non-standard tennis balls.

Those in divisions 12U and up play on regular courts with regular balls.

Last year’s junior tournament saw a total of 49 matches played over a four-day period.

To register or for more information, email Thomas at

[email protected] or phone 360-582-3033.

Thanks to the supporters of area youth tennis, Thomas said, no fees are anticipated for either event.

Thomas has offered summertime instruction and events for free in Sequim for the past nine years.

He said he’s simply paying it forward: a tennis pro took he and brother Bill, an Arizona native, under his proverbial wing and both Thomases wound up playing in college and earning U.S. Tennis Association professional status.

“A lot of kids [I’ve taught] could not otherwise afford to play,” Thomas said.

“I really love working with the kids — they want to play.”

Still, a nagging knee injury has Thomas set for surgery, so he’s seriously considering calling an end to his tennis career after the summer.

In lieu of that leadership, Thomas is trying to get area youths to take it upon themselves to simply call each other, come out and play in pickup matches.

Thomas said he’s excited for the prospects of youth tennis in both Sequim and Port Angeles.

“I see more and more kids coming out,” he said. “There’s a lot of tennis talent in the pipeline here and PA.”

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected]

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