NORWALK, Conn. - Kenya is perhaps best known for producing world record setting marathoners, but David Kimani hopes his accomplishments in tennis will be equally as compelling.
Kimani has been teaching tennis in this country for almost two decades at all levels, but what he's most proud of, he said, is his involvement with Norwalk Grassroots Tennis. The organization was founded in 1995 by Art Goldblatt to bring the sport to inner-city children.
In the intervening years the program has grown in size and stature. Last year's 18 and under squad made it to the state finals of the UST Team Tennis championships, and the 8 and under team was second.
"We have six graduates of the program who are now playing in college, and we have several who are on the high school teams at Norwalk and Brien McMahon," Kimani said.
But just as important as the game are the life lessons the young players are taught during weekly one-hour sessions, he said.
"It's a three-stage curriculum developed by UST called 'Game Set Match,'" Kimani explained. "It deals with academics and study skills, as well as social skills that will enable them to do well in society."
Players are required to submit their report cards and an education coordinator follows up with teachers and guidance counselors if there are problems.
There are five teams consisting of about 60 players who compete during eight-week seasons. They practice several times a week at clubs in Darien, Wilton, and Weston. During the summer, the program expands to more than 300 with introductory instructional clinics conducted at Norwalk's Roodner Court and Colonial Village.
The number of kids and volunteer instructors has been growing, said Kimani. "That speaks volumes about how people value what we're doing."
The group is in the process of finding a permanent office, possibly at the YMCA.
"It's great to see these kids grow and improve as tennis players" said Kimani. "But it's even better seeing them become successful off the court, too.'