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Jan 25, 2016 4:48 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Eighth-Grader Heads Effort To Bring Youth Tennis Court To Bridgehampton Child Care Center

Jack Louchheim and Bonnie Michele Cannon, the executive director of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center.
Jan 26, 2016 8:55 AM

One of Bonnie Cannon’s main objectives as executive director of the Bridgehampton Child Care Center is to give kids opportunities they otherwise would not have.So when a middle school student with a passion for tennis and community service told her last summer that he wanted to spearhead a fundraising effort to construct a new tennis court on the center’s property on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, she was all ears.

That’s how the Bridgehampton Youth Tennis Project was born.

Sagaponack resident Jack Louchheim, 14, an eighth-grader at Pierson Middle School who played second singles on the East Hampton varsity tennis team in the spring, hatched the idea while walking around the child care center grounds last summer. The center’s two multi-purpose courts, visibly in need of repair, caught his eye.

Children who’ve attended the center’s summer program for the past few years have been bused off the premises to Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor to play tennis, while the center’s courts are occasionally used for other activities but more often are empty because of the disrepair. Louchheim saw an opportunity—and Cannon was on board right away.

“I’m enthusiastic whenever our kids are exposed to things they normally don’t see,” she said. “We serve middle-class families down to low-income, so most of our kids aren’t taking tennis lessons or competing in tennis tournaments. Whenever I’m able to open up these avenues to them, it’s always a plus. The fact that it will be right there on our campus makes it more available to more kids.

“Who knows, we may have the next Venus or Serena Williams right here at the center,” Cannon added.

Louchheim said he had been interested in giving back to the community in some way, and was happy to combine that desire with his love of tennis, a sport he started playing at the age of 5.

In addition to leading the fundraising effort, Louchheim will donate his time as an instructor at the center once the court is completed, and he’s in the process of recruiting several of his tennis-playing friends to help with fundraising and management of the program, and also to volunteer as fellow coaches once the court is completed.

“I think it’s just a really good opportunity to combine a passion of mine to help benefit the community,” Louchheim said. “And I also like working with children, so it’s like two in one.”

Fundraising efforts for the Bridgehampton Youth Tennis Project are still in the beginning stages, but the goal is to raise $50,000 for the construction of a Youth Tennis court at the center, where free instruction will be provided for children attending the center’s summer program.

Youth Tennis is a modified version of tennis specifically geared toward teaching the game to children ages 10 and under. Youth Tennis courts are shorter, the nets are lower, and the equipment is size and weight appropriate for children. It utilizes a simpler scoring system, and is the USTA’s approved method for teaching tennis to children. Louchheim hopes to use the 34-foot-by-56-foot court to teach Youth Tennis five mornings a week during the summer program, dividing a group of roughly 40 children, ages 5 to 8, into groups of four for 30 to 45 minutes of instruction each day.

In addition to soliciting fundraising within the local community, Louchheim has also worked on earning his certification as a Youth Tennis instructor, taking online courses ahead of an on-court coaching workshop he plans to complete in May. Louchheim is hoping to raise the $50,000 with enough time for the courts to be constructed by the summer. The construction should take roughly three weeks, he said.

Louchheim said his dedication to the project stems not only from his desire to help others and his love of tennis, but also because of benefits the sports has provided for him, both on and off the court—benefits he hopes other children can experience in the future.

“For me, tennis has really improved my physical and mental ability,” he said. “I think it’s helped me in school, because it improves my concentration, focus and endurance. It’s kept me in shape, which is a good thing. And through it I’ve formed relationships with people who became friends.

“If I never played tennis, I wouldn’t have that. Every sport can do that, but for me it’s been tennis.”

Louchheim’s dedication to the project has been impressive to Cannon, and she said she hopes peers of his in the area will follow in his footsteps. “For someone his age to be so interested in community service and helping out those that are not as fortunate as other kids, he’s way ahead of his time,” Cannon said. “I wish we had more kids like him who were very persistent regarding something they see and wanting to make it happen.

“We’re always encouraging kids to do community service, and to come out and make themselves available to us,” Cannon continued. “We have a lot of stuff going on and a lot of kids in need, so we’re always looking for tutors and people who want to help. We’re all one village and one community, so let’s help each other.”

To find out more about Bridgehampton Youth Tennis, visit bridgehamptonyouthtennis.com.

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Good for you Jack!!!
This is an amazing way to support and give back to our community.
Well done!
By Kate2 (1), Sag Harbor on Jan 28, 16 5:51 PM