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The game of love: Tennis association president is on a mission

When you think about Liberty Lake and sports, what immediately comes to mind is either golf or something to do with water.

That, Frank Cruz-Aedo insists, would be an oversight.

The longtime Liberty Lake resident and tennis enthusiast is the founder and president of the Liberty Lake Community Tennis Association, a group that works hard to boost the sport in an area known for its golf courses, running events and water sports.

“We got some new tennis courts opened up just last year at Rocky Hill Park,” Cruz-Aedo said. “Before that, it was a little difficult for people to get on at Pavillion Park. They’d go there to get in a game and get frustrated because they couldn’t get on the court. Now, with these new courts, the game is growing.

“And these really are beautiful courts – they’re painted the USTA blue – the same color as the courts you’ll see if you watch the U.S. Open tennis tournament on television.”

The boys and girls tennis coach at Lakeland High in Rathdrum, Cruz-Aedo and the LLCTA have a summer program every Monday night at Rocky Hill Park, teaching lessons to beginner players, young and old.

“We’ve had as many as 20 or 25 beginners out there on a given Monday night,” he said. “We work on skills and I will organize them into singles and doubles – sometimes we’ll even do a little round robin tournament with them.

“The beauty of tennis is that it is a lifetime sport. And it is a great sport for families. You get the kids interested and mom and dad suddenly want to get out there and play. And if mom and dad play, the kids want to learn the game.”

Cruz-Aedo and the LLCTA helped put on a tennis clinic at the community’s summer day camp – CHILL, which stands for Children Hangin’ in Liberty Lake.

“The United States Tennis Association has developed a program they call Quick Start,” he said. “If you stop and think about it, baseball has Little League where they cut down the size of the field and the equipment to a size little kids can use. Soccer and football all do the same thing. Finally, tennis took a cue from them and did the same thing.

“We have a cut-down-sized court for kids under 10 years of age. We use a lower net for them and a foam tennis ball. You can take one standard-sized tennis court and make four Quick Start courts out of it.

“The kids loved it. We had about 20 kids, all of them 10 and under, and they got excited about the game and about playing it.”

There had been a drive to include several Quick Start courts in the construction project at Rocky Hill Park, Cruz-Aedo said.

“Liberty Lake signed off on it and the USTA even allocated some seed money for the project,” he explained. “The problem was that we ran up against a time issue and didn’t have enough time to raise the money needed to do it before construction started. We’re still hoping to see that happen in the near future.”

The group’s next project kicks off Aug. 22.

“We have a lot of people here in Liberty Lake who belong to the Spokane Club or the Spokane Racquet Club and they all go into town to take their cardio tennis classes,” Cruz-Aedo said. “They’re very popular, and we’re going to introduce them here.

“It’s a great mix of tennis drills set to music. You get a great workout, you get to work on your tennis game, and you burn a lot of calories. You can burn as many as 900 calories during a cardio tennis session. You really get your heart pumping!”

Unlike the regular Monday night sessions, which will continue through September, the cardio tennis class is designed for intermediate players and above.

Founded in 2008, the LLCTA has plenty of future plans in addition to expanded tennis courts for youngsters.

“Our goal is to not just offer lessons, but to bring tennis tournaments to Liberty Lake,” Cruz-Aedo said. “We have a couple lighted tennis courts out here and we’ve been in talks to be able to put events on them and we have a go-ahead to do that.

“We want people to understand that there’s more than just golf in Liberty Lake.”