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Volleys Bring Life Lessons
Tennis Stars 2000 coach Lance Turner, at right, tosses another tennis ball toward the young students waiting on the other side of the net as they worked on forehand skills on Friday morning. Marg Jackson/The Times


Summer is still in session – but a group of local youngsters has continued to learn, gaining some skills in the game of tennis and ultimately, the game of life.

Futures Stars 2000 tennis academy has returned to Escalon this summer under the direction of Lance Turner, who has brought the class to local kids for the past few years. He said he has been extremely pleased with the number of students this year, and they have worked in some life lessons along with forehand and backhand skills.

Future Stars had its first session in Escalon from June 12 through July 10, Session 2 started on July 17 and runs through Aug. 7. Tiny Tot is for ages 4 to 7, followed by Pre-Academy for ages 8 to 17 and the Junior Excellence/Adult classes are for those 10 and above. Classes run each Friday morning.

The Future Stars program is utilized in about 17 cities and Escalon has joined that group, said Turner, noting that close to two dozen youngsters have taken part in the summer sessions.

“They love it,” Turner said of participating, noting that he is being assisted this year by his daughter Leia Turner – a former standout player at Lincoln High School – and her fiancé Bryan Olivo.

“We do volleys, forehand, backhand, we play some games,” Turner said.

The best part of the class, however, he added, is that students learn more than about tennis.

Part of the HITS initiative, a USTA NorCal program, Turner said they focus on Honesty, Integrity, Teamwork and Sportsmanship in the classes, making sure all players are aware of how important those four components are.

“They learn something every week regarding life skills,” Turner said. “There is an educational component for this program.”

The youngest students got a little extra instruction this past week, their time extending into the next age group, with four- to 11-year-olds sharing the tennis courts at Escalon High.

A dentist, Turner focused his educational message this past week on dental care and the importance of eating healthy and making wise choices to protect your teeth and your body.

While he has run the program in the past in Escalon, Turner said he was letting his daughter take more of the lead this year, as she recently completed a successful program, earlier this spring, in Mokelumne Hill.

All students on the court Friday were thoroughly enjoying the drills and were treating their coaches and each other with respect, something Turner said is crucial to the learning process.

“I like tennis because I like to do the forehand,” said young Ava Girardi, 5, poised at the net to send another smashing forehand shot back over to teacher Leia.

Turner said when he worked with Bridget Gaines of Escalon Recreation Department to first bring the program here, they were able to obtain a grant and the city has much of the necessary equipment to provide the classes.

The Aug. 7 session will feature a special ‘Jamboree’ where kids will play tournament-style, putting their newly learned court skills to the test.