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Learning to Play Tennis at Kimberley Park Elementary

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Kim 1By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

SEPTEMBER 16, 2021 – Coach Juwon Crowell is the PE teacher at Kimberley Park Elementary. On the morning of Tuesday Sept. 15, he led a class of kindergarten students out the back of the school and across the street to a tennis court maintained by the Winston-Salem Parks & Recreation Department.

The kindergarten students are in teacher Katisha Fonville and teacher assistant Nicole Paul’s class, and Paul also accompanied the students.

At the court, Darryl Benbow, the president of the Kimberley Park Tennis Association, was waiting.

So were tennis rackets and tennis balls. Little orange cones had been set up so students would have their own spots.

Let the adventure begin.

The students just started learning to play tennis earlier in the week, so Benbow took them through a series of relatively simple activities.

Kim 33He had them hold the racket so they could balance a ball on the head of the racquet and walk around while balancing the ball. Some balls, of course, made good their escape and rolled across the court with a student in hot pursuit.

Other activities included taking a swat at a ball that was dangling from a cord held by Benbow.

No matter what was happening, there was much excitement and laughter.

Along the way, Benbow and Crowell offered lots of positive reinforcement.

“Good try!”

Good hand-and-eye coordination!”

“Smart!”

As these students and other students at Kimberley Park continue learning to play tennis this year, Crowell and Benbow and Principal Diamond Cotton have many positive goals in mind.

For one, Crowell said, they want to introduce students at Kimberley Park to sports in addition to such standards as football and basketball that they might not become familiar with otherwise.

Stretch 77“The goal is to offer opportunities and expose our student body to uncommon sports,” Crowell said.

It’s a way of leveling the playing field in larger sense and broadening their horizons.

As a strong athlete – Crowell played football at East Carolina University and was an undrafted NFL free agent after graduating – Crowell knows what participating in sports can do.

“I saw how sports changed my life,” he said. “I thought it would be an awesome opportunity for Kimberley Park students to experience tennis.”

Crowell is also making it possible for students to enjoy soccer. On Saturday mornings, he is leading a soccer program in a field behind the school.

Tennis and soccer are part of a program at Kimberley Park that offers other activities as well. In the spring, other teachers and administrators began offering such after-school classes as dance and percussion as a way to encourage students to participate in after-school tutoring programs.

Play 92“We know that it takes a little extra to get our students motivated to learn and, even more, to stay for afternoon tutoring,” Cotton said. 

“When we started tutoring last school year, we noticed that our students were not attending. We worked with community partners and our staff to provide extra-curricular activities after tutoring to motivate students. Our numbers jumped from around 20 students to more than 100 students.” 

“These activities included sports, dance, and drumming. This school year, we are adding to the list and working with additional community partners to provide extracurricular activities at no cost.”

“We know the benefits of these activities, which include greater academic success, greater character development, better time-management and leadership skills, more positive social development, and greater interest in community involvement.”

“These alone makes the time worth it.”

Crowell said he appreciates Cotton’s support.

Tennis 21“She is the backbone to all of this,” Crowell said.

Benbow has been helping young people in the Winston-Salem community learn to play tennis for the past 20 years and starting to work with the students at Kimberley Park is a way both to expand – and to bring home – the work that the Kimberley Park Tennis Association does.

Working with students in the community over the years, the association has enabled them to go on to play tennis at such colleges and universities as Wake Forest, Howard, and N.C. State.

His hope is to be able to help do the same for students at Kimberley Park.

“Our goal is to develop these kids into tennis players,” he said.

Learning to play tennis also serves students academically, Benbow said. “Tennis is the carrot to entice these kids to study more.”

Benbow, who retired from United Parcel Service, is a product of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. After attending Fourteenth Street Elementary (which has since closed), he went on to what was Hanes Junior High and to Atkins High before graduating from East Forsyth High in 1972.  

Run 98Crowell also attended WS/FC Schools. He graduated from Carver High after going to Mineral Springs Middle and Old Richmond Elementary. These days, his daughters Harmoni and Sereniti are in elementary school at The Downtown School.

The Kimberley Park tennis program is supported by the U.S. Tennis Association’s National Junior Tennis and Learning, a national program of tennis organizations “seeking to develop the character of young people through tennis and education.” It provides rackets, balls and other equipment.

You will find a story that Diamond Cotton wrote in April about extracurricular activities connected with tutoring at Kimberley Park.