KYLE, S.D. - Playing tennis can be more than just a game or sport, it can promote family bonding, strengthen an athlete's skills and help create a healthy lifestyle.
Standing Tall Tennis, an organization affiliated with the United States Tennis Association, has been exposing that philosophy to Native American communities for the past five years in free tennis clinics. David Dantzer, who created the organization, has traveled to reservations across the nation during the summer to promote tennis to youths and their families.
Dantzer has been playing and teaching tennis for more than 40 years. "It is a great family sport, promotes family bonding and is a sport you can play for your whole lifetime."
Dantzer is interested in the Native American way of life and developed Standing Tall not only to promote tennis, but to help the young people on reservations. He particularly likes the way the Lakota people think of children as sacred, and promote them first.
Over the past five years, Dantzer visited Pechanga, Torrez Martinez, and Chaulla reservations in California, the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, the Lower Sioux in Minnesota and the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota.
This year, three more areas will be included on his clinic agenda, the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, the Southern Ute in Colorado and the Navajo Nation in Arizona.
With the help of Tony Stingley, Daryl Paluch, and Forest Cooper of United States Tennis Associations, the clinics provide young and old with basic skills needed to play tennis.
Stingley said through the organization young tennis players can join tournaments, earn scholarships and have the opportunity to travel to tennis events such as the Trent Tucker Celebrity Tennis and Golf fund-raiser. Michael Jordan will participate and two youths will be chosen to meet the basketball great.
Stingley emphasized that skills gained in playing tennis can help eye and arm coordination in other sports such as basketball, baseball, and football. "Young athletes should realize most professional players they see on television don't play their sport all year long, they cross play in other sports to gain skills that help them.
"In cross training with tennis, skill is acquired learning to play without a coach, solving problems on your own, and being honest in calling the lines by yourself," he said.
The tennis group works with community organizations to help promote the free clinics. Clinics were held June 14 to 16 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Pine Ridge at the Sacred Heart basketball court and at Little Wound School in Kyle.
Several area organizations helped sponsor the clinics, the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Diabetes Prevention Program, Prairie Wind Casino and the Drug Elimination Program.
Mark Lone Hill, of the Diabetes Prevention Program, who helped with the tennis clinics, said it is important for youths to get more active and learn healthier lifestyles and that's why the program tries to sponsor these activities for children.
Standing Tall Tennis clinics are scheduled July 29 to 30 at Southern Ute in Ignacio, Colo., and July 3 to 5 at the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Ariz.