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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Instructor has hosted tennis camp for 47 years

BY CONOR SHINE
The Wichita Eagle

On a hot summer morning at McAdams Park, dozens of children stand scattered across the tennis courts, bouncing balls off their racquets.

Charles "Goose" Doughty stands off to one side, offering words of encouragement as the children try to keep the balls airborne.

"See if you can get 10 in a row without missing," Doughty says.

Doughty, 75, spends three days a week at the park running a camp that teaches kids the game he loves.

He's been hosting the camp for 47 years and the courts at the park now bear his name. "Tennis is a lifetime sport," he said, and Doughty has dedicated himself to introducing it to kids who might never have picked up a racquet without his encouragement.

Doughty, a former Heights High School teacher and coach, offers the camp for free and provides all of the equipment. He said between 100 and 150 children, most ages 8 to 14, will have participated when the camp, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, ends next week.

"A lot of kids say 'I don't like tennis,' but they've never tried it," he said. "Tennis is different than most sports. You don't ever have to retire."

Youth interest in tennis has been growing across the city, and recently renovated courts at area schools are providing more opportunities for kids to learn, said Bill Faflick, director of athletics for Wichita public schools. Faflick credits Doughty with helping lead the charge to introduce tennis to youth in the city.

"Coach Doughty has been a front-runner in providing opportunities for kids to be exposed to tennis when that would never have happened any other way," Faflick said. "He's had elite tennis players and he's had beginners, and he's had a positive impact on all of them."

Most of the children at Doughty's camp are beginners, although some have attended in previous summers. Each morning starts with stretching before the kids take to the courts and practice forehands, backhands, volleys and serves.

Doughty takes pride in the fact that many of the children he's coached have continued playing the game long after the camp is over. Many went on to play in high school, and Doughty said he knows former campers, some now in their 50s, who are still playing the game he introduced them to in their youth.

The game teaches discipline, Doughty said, and provides a fun way for kids to stay active.

"Tennis is just a vehicle we use to reach them," he said. "We try to be good role models for them because your health is something you can't buy."

Reach Conor Shine at 316-269-6752 or cshine@wichitaeagle.com.

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