Tennis players put on clinic for BYTE program
On Sunday, after a long weekend of matches, the UA Men’s Tennis team hosted BYTE, the Border Youth Tennis Exchange, for an afternoon of tennis and fun.
According to BYTE’s Director of Youth Engagement, Charlie Cutler, BYTE is an after-school youth development program from Mexico that uses tennis instruction and academic enrichment classes to inspire and connect children across the border in Nogales, AZ and Nogales, Sonora in Mexico.
After eating lunch in the stands and watching the match vs. Oregon, the kids got to partake in a clinic with Arizona head coach Clancy Shields and players from the team.
“We all started, like these kids did, with somebody who got us interested in playing, and got us engaged in the sport,” Shields said. “There is not one guy in my locker room that didn’t at some point fall in love with the game, and it started off because of people like the BYTE foundation or people who donated their time to letting kids come out and do special things like this. All it takes is for a kid to get the bug and fall in love with it, and you never know, maybe they’ll be playing here in 10 years.”
The kids participated in drills with hands-on instruction from players like freshman Andres Reyes, with even coach Shields getting in on the action. The kids were taught technique and were given other tennis tips, but when asked what the most important lesson the players could teach the children, junior Trent Botha kept it simple:
“Really just to enjoy themselves,” he said. “Tennis is such a social sport and to just go out there and enjoy yourself, tennis is obviously very competitive too, but for me it’s just to go out and enjoy the game, and for them to go out and have fun with their friends, it’s the biggest thing.”
After the clinic, the kids got to take a tour of the UA Main Library, where they visited the 3D printing lab and took part in a 3D computer design activity, led by a UA program administrator.
In Nogales, AZ, BYTE operations take place at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Cruz County and in Nogales, Sonora, they operate at a girls orphanage called Casa Hogar para Ninas Madre Conchita.
According to Cutler, Sunday was the first day that the two branches had been brought together to meet in person. They coordinated with the American Consulate, as well as the administrations of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Port Authority to secure 1-day passes for 11 of the girls in their program. They crossed the border early Sunday morning, where they then took a bus ride with the Arizona students to Tucson. While the kids had a great time learning from the best of the best when it comes to tennis, the players say it was just as much fun for them.
“Oh, it’s so much fun,” said Botha. “It’s such an honor for me to come out, I know they’ve come such a long, which just adds to it, getting the visas to come watch us, to get all their support, it’s the least that we can do, play with them, give them a little bit of our experience, it was a lot of fun.”
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