Wellness Center Update: Expanded Partnership with Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center
Pictured are Fit Kids program graduates and Sportsmen’s Tennis Coach (back row, L-R): Veronica DeCarvalho, Coach Jelani Haynes, Olivia Burnette, (front Row, L-R) Erin Hutcherson, Isiah Miranda, Sophia Carvalho
When Bowdoin Street Health Center and Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center first launched a pediatric obesity pilot collaboration in 2011, it was evident that both organizations shared a fundamental goal: to provide community members with safe, accessible resources to engage in healthy living. Today, in the Smith Family Foundation Activity Room, Sportsmen’s tennis coach and Director of Community Outreach, Jelani Haynes, brings the tennis courts of Blue Hill Ave to the patients of Bowdoin. Collapsible nets, colorful court markers, and unique tennis balls made entirely of sponge bring a new indoor tennis world to life. Youth who have previously been hesitant to engage in a new sport are able to learn tennis basics and build up their self-esteem in a place they are familiar with, alongside their siblings and peers in specially-designed Wellness Center “Fit Kids” programs.
Participant feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and true to the caliber of Sportsman’s-based programming, tennis classes at Bowdoin feature exciting games and drills, while supporting opportunities for “life training” as well. Haynes notes, “We highlight the importance of being mentally strengthened alongside being physically fit. Sportsmanship and sportsman-like conduct are important elements to instill in young players, and we really try to encourage the idea of consistency in every aspect of students’ lives, whether it is consistency in practicing a technique, or in simply doing your best to attend your classes regularly.”
“Coach J”, as Haynes is referred to by his students, also believes in the importance of educating youth on developing healthy attitudes and healthy habits at an early age, in the hopes that they will continue to make positive lifestyle decisions into adulthood. He has a particular passion for community engagement, something he shares with his father, Conway Haynes, who was one of the founding members of Sportsmen’s.
“I truly enjoy making connections with local schools, churches, and health centers, and being able to deliver tennis programming to various locations beyond the walls of Sportsmen’s. The students at Bowdoin are amazing, and are very enthusiastic about tennis. They are learning the fundamentals of the sport very quickly, and their competitive spirits keep them motivated to succeed. Above all, their regular attendance and enthusiasm indicates that they and their families are truly invested in their health.”
Seven year old Erin, now a Fit Kids tennis graduate looking to attend future activities at Sportsmen’s, gave the Wellness Center her stamp of approval after her provider, Bowdoin Pediatrician Dr. Sabina Kumar, stopped by to watch part of a tennis class in action. Thrilled to get the chance to show off her new skills to her “favorite doctor” at Bowdoin and the person who suggested she try tennis in the first place, Erin exclaimed to her friends, “We are so lucky that we get to play tennis in our doctor’s office because our doctor gets to see how much fun we have!”