When Bill Nelson started giving free tennis lessons 1976, he probably didn’t imagine the impact his idea would have on Ada High School tennis.

Thirty years after Nelson — Ada’s current high school principal and the school’s tennis coach until 1984 — put his idea into practice, the Cougar tennis program is one of the most successful in the state, and coach Skip Griese said the annual free summer lesson program — which begins Monday and runs through July 7 — is a major reason.

“All of my high school players have to go through this program,” said Griese, who took over for Nelson in 1984. “This is the part of my program where I can break down the student-teacher ratio.

“If they go through the summer program, I don’t have to teach them the basics when they get to high school,” he added. “This program helps develop high school players . It helps give them the kind of dedication they need to become a good tennis player, because they play in the heat of the day.”

Lessons — which are given by Griese and Ada varsity tennis players — begin at 12:30 each day (Monday through Wednesday) at the Ada Tennis Center and are open to all ages, with third grade and under from 12:30 to 1:30, fourth-through-sixth grades from 1:30 to 2:30 and seventh grade and up from 2:30 to 4 p.m. The program, which is funded by the City of Ada, also provides rackets for kids who need them.

“It’s for anybody 12th grade and under,” Griese said. “We had kids as young as four. We start with age, then we can re-arrange things according to skill level.

“You can come as much as you want or as little as you want,” he added. “It’s come-and-go and depends on how much they want to put into it.”

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