Teutopolis youth tennis camp continues summer success

·3 min read

Jun. 27—Michelle Niebrugge has seen the Teutopolis summer tennis camp progress over the years — a sight that puts a smile across her face.

"It means a lot. If we're not growing, we're dying, and in the last couple of years, we've increased our numbers so much with such high percentages," Niebrugge said. "Last year, we had 119 campers, and we've got 138. We love seeing our numbers grow; we love having kids come excited every day because their energy gives us energy."

Niebrugge has been working with the summer tennis camp for 13 years. She has also been heavily involved with the sport in the Effingham County community for 20 years.

The camp meets every weekday in June from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., with kids — ages nine to 18 — divided into their respective age groups. Each session is 45 minutes long.

"I love watching how much they grow together in just a few weeks. They bring great joy to our community and make our camp so much fun," Niebrugge said. "We have a great time when we learn the fundamentals of tennis. We start with the forehands and backhands; we move on to serves and volleys, how to play the game, how to score the game, where to stand, and then sprinkle in fun games throughout the time that we have together."

Friday marked the final day of the teaching side of the camp, with Niebrugge using the day more so as a "tennis carnival" for the campers to enjoy, ending with two campers getting the chance to pie their favorite tennis instructors in the face.

"We had games all morning long where we hit 1,000 forehands and backhands in, as a group, and we were able to draw some names at random, and they were able to pie instructors in the face. We're having a small-ball tournament, and we're going to have some game stations," Niebrugge said.

Niebrugge added that the instructors are just as important as anyone to the camp's success.

"The kids look up to these instructors so much," Niebrugge said. "All of these instructors are repeat instructors from last year, based on our time and how the employment has been post-COVID. These kids come back for the instructors every year; they develop great relationships that last a long time."

Of the instructors were current girls and boys head coaches Allison Deters and Andy Mersman, current player Gus Siemer, and former player Alli Brumleve.

"I look forward to summer every year. I've been doing this for about nine years now, and it's really fun to work with the younger group and help teach them not just tennis but also the love for the game and get them excited," Deters said.

All of the instructors will be around for one last week of the camp, as the campers end the month with their annual tournament based on age brackets.

"Everybody is putting their skills to the test what we've learned at camp the last four weeks," Niebrugge said. "They're combining them and competing against one another. This tournament is a friendly tournament, but we will have people who advance on and end up being the champions of our annual tournament."

All of the activities are at Teutopolis Grade School.

Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at 618-510-9231 or alex.wallner@effinghamdailynews.com.