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Free south Kansas City tennis program inspiring, teaching young students

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Posted at 10:21 PM, May 20, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Lob and Learn program put on for Kansas City, Missouri, students packs so much into a tennis swing.

More than tennis, the program is teaching youth about making good decisions both on and off the court.

Following directions, getting out there, and trying are all part of Mark Stulz’s game plan.

Stulz is no stranger to the Center School District.

"I graduated Center in 1990 and have been super involved in the community; I actually grew up right up the street,” Stulz said.

For years, he’s given back to Center’s south Kansas City, Missouri, students with free tennis camps.

"Friendships will get forged here, and we have success here in the building," he said.

He says lob after lob, the program also offers a chance at courage.

"I get to hit it really hard and really short, so when I’m in a match, I can get that point," said Carter Ross, a Lob and Learn player. "I’m kind of shy, so just talking to people and making friends."

Aisha Harris' son, Caleb, has also been a part of the program.

“He absolutely loves it — the way his face lights up, the way he’s running to the car, 'Let’s go tennis practice,'" Harris said. “I’m a single mother, and my son is an only child, so being a part of this program has helped him be around other children outside of school.”

Harris says it’s the mentors that make the difference.

"The coaches are mentors for him," she said. “Leadership skills, being able to interact with others, and having the teams and the community with him teach him more of that culture. It gives everyone the opportunity to experience that."

Gene Willis, manager of corporate social responsibility for GEHA, a major sponsor of the program, talked about how important it is to the students.

"They really try to create access and some of the social emotional parts of support that create bonds, friendship skills, and confidences," Willis said. "You get to see a lot of kids make those lifelong healthy activities.”

For Stulz, he sees the progress each week.

“Just growing, watching change happen within yourself, and leadership skills," he said. “I’ve seen dreams happen right in front of my face, and you’ll see more from us for sure."

The next free Lob and Learn camp is in June. For. more details, click this link.