At Tennis Camp in Dorchester, Learning More Than Just a Sport

Posted on: July 4, 2018 Topics: child health, practicum, sports

Mac Hine headshot 400x241

Tennis is associated with privilege, MPH student Mac Hine says, but it doesn’t have to be: “All you really need is a racket and a ball and a net, right?”

Hine is completing her practicum with Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center. Founded more than 50 years ago in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, it was the first non-profit indoor tennis club created by and for African Americans. Tennis lessons pay the bills at Sportsmen’s, supporting the nonprofit’s community outreach efforts. “The idea is that competitive tennis is for everyone,” Hine says.

For her practicum, Hine is working with Sportsmen’s tennis summer camp program for at-risk Boston kids aged 5 to 14. “The kids are here from 8 am to 5 pm, doing fun physical activities and learning tennis skills,” she says. Being active is especially important in the face of rising obesity rates among low-income children, Hine says, but the camp is just as much about social development. “They’re spending time with other youth their age, and they have mentors who are usually only a few years older than them, up to early 20s,” she says. “They’re building a social network, building relationships, while also enjoying physical activity.”

Supported by a Practicum Scholar Award, Hine is creating and piloting a monitoring and evaluation kit, which Sportsmen’s will be able to use to find ways to make the program more effective. The kit includes protocols for measuring how closely the day-to-day workings of the program and various recruitment efforts match predetermined plans and goals. The kids are wearing accelerometers to help gauge how much physical activity is actually happening at the camp, Hine says, while camp counselors will be keeping records of what activities they lead the kids through, and for how long.

Hine is also conducting observations herself, and conducting surveys with the counselors and the older kids to get a sense of what they think went well and what needed improvement. At the end of the nine-week camp, Hine will conduct focus group discussions with camp counselors and parents.

Hine says she was interested in working with Sportsmen’s since orientation, when she and other new students went on a tour of the neighborhoods around SPH. “We stopped at Sportsmen’s, and Jelani Haynes, the director of community outreach, talked to us about Sportsmen’s mission, and it just hit home for me.”

An exercise physiologist by training and former personal trainer, Hine used to work with Girls on the Run, a non-profit aimed at pre-teen girls that she says is similar to Sportsmen’s program. “It uses fitness and physical activity as a way of teaching girls not only to have fun exercising but also about things like gossip, self-image, self-esteem, resolving conflicts, and building each other up,” she says.

That experience and others like it made Hine passionate about Sportsmen’s mission, she says. “I really believe in the ability of a sport and a ‘team’ to bring people together and talk,” she says. “It’s just such a great platform for teaching kids about all kinds of topics, like nutrition, violence, drug use, etc.”

It is also a platform with even more potential, Hine says. Beyond her practicum, she says her unofficial goal is to help create stronger ties between SPH and Sportsmen’s, hopefully leading to more students working with the nonprofit in practicums and hands-on classes. After all, she says, “It’s so close! It’s Dorchester. It’s only three miles away.”

Michelle Samuels

Mac Hine is taking over the SPH Instagram account from July 9 through 13 to share photos from her practicum. Follow along at Instagram.com/BUSPH/ and with the hashtag #BUSPHSummer18.

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