Nancy Wert will always remember the Farquhar Park tennis complex as a welcoming place.
A place where someone could show up with a racket and be invited to play.
Wert remembers fondly the late Marion Brown, the park's unofficial ambassador of tennis, who made sure that everyone received a chance to compete, even if it meant that she had to sit out a set.
"I took tennis lessons from John Katz in the mid 70s, and I started coming up (to Farquhar Park) because I knew I could play here," Wert said. "There was a group of people who had been playing here for years, and everyone seemed to know everyone else."
Marion Brown was part of the group.
"She was a cheerleader for the park and an advocate for tennis," Wert said.
Wert is the cheerleader and advocate these days, trying to get as many youngsters as possible involved in the Tennis for Kids program.
She's the site director at the place where she loved playing: Farquhar Park. The park, in the city's northwest neighborhood, is one of 21 locations in York and Adams counties where players between the ages of 7 and 16 can learn the basics of the game for free. The instruction takes place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This year's program began on June 25 and will close on July 27.
"It's a wonderful program," said Wert, who's in her first year as site director. "It allows kids to learn to play a sport that they can play their whole lives. A lot of people who I play tennis with said I should get involved with Tennis for Kids, but it wasn't always convenient with my job. This year, it was convenient, and I decided to do it."
Quinn Ney used to be one of the kids in the Tennis for Kids program.
Ney was 8 when she joined a group of young players on the courts at Farquhar Park across the street from her home.
She remained in the program until 10th grade. The lessons helped develop skills which enabled Ney to play for four seasons at York High.
She's currently a student at Lock Haven University and a Tennis for Kids instructor -- at Farquhar Park.
"I admired my instructors when I was in the program, and I wanted to be one of them (instructors), too," Ney said. "I like teaching kids new things, and tennis is something they'll have their entire lives."
Ney, who's majoring in health and physical education, feels bad for the city kids who don't have high school tennis anymore. The York City school board recently cut a number of sports programs, including tennis, in order to help close a budget deficit.
"I was very upset when I heard about it," she said. "It's one of the cheapest sports you can have. What a shame."
Sarah Donner and Alex Feistritzer will be freshmen at Central York High School this fall.
The classmates are also taking tennis lessons again this summer at Farquhar Park.
On Wednesday morning, Donner and Feistritzer were part of a group of approximately 40 young players working on their games with Tennis for Kids instructors.
"I love tennis," Donner said. "I've learned a lot about different things, like how to set up a point and where to stand. All the tips I've received have helped."
Feistritzer, who is in his third year with the program, said he's gotten a lot better at everything.
"When I first picked up a racket, I barely could get the ball in (the court)," he said. "Now, I'm playing intermediate-level tennis. My serve has probably improved the most. The instructors can also show you how to hit certain shots, like topspin ones and slices."
High school tennis could be in the future for both players. However, they won't have to put their rackets away after high school -- or college, for that matter.
-- Reach Dick VanO linda at dvanolin firstname.lastname@example.org.