Robin Butler, 15, left, and Tatiarria Hayes, 16, look through gear donated… (Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles…)
Compton High School has two tennis courts, a coach and now, all the gear it can use, including rackets, balls and even shoes. What's lacking is a team.
But that's beginning to change.
The school started signing up prospective tennis players last week as a donation of equipment and regulation nets was being unloaded. Curious students approached the tennis court to ask what the commotion was about and left as team members with racket bags filled with gear.
"Guess we play tennis now," Tatiarria Hayes, 16, joked with her best friend, Robin Butler, 15, both holding black and green bags.
The pair both play basketball in the winter and run track in the spring. Tennis, a fall sport, will round out the rest of their athletic year.
"It's something else to do and keep us active," Tatiarria said, adding that sports keep her away from fights. "When you have nothing to do, you might go looking for something that could turn into trouble."
The donation came from a Laguna Niguel teenager, a tennis player herself, who decided to take the words of a substitute teacher seriously. The Dana Hills High School instructor encouraged students to help their community; Katie Olson decided to take it further.
Katie, 17, had extra equipment from nearly 10 years of playing tennis collecting dust in the garage. So she and her teammates gathered their unused equipment and held donation drives at the nearby tennis club.
On a whim, her mother called Compton High School and asked if they needed tennis equipment; Athletic Director Maxine Kemp was so excited she drove more than an hour to pick it all up last July.
The school started a tennis program but still didn't have enough gear for a full team.
So Katie planned another drive and soon, shoes, balls, rackets and strings came pouring in from other members of her local tennis club and its pro shop owner.
"It's an expensive sport," said Katie's mother, Julie Andrews. Aside from buying them new every year, Olson has to get her rackets restrung every three weeks at $25 to $40 a pop. Balls go dead quickly and tennis shoes wear down after a season or so.
"I know how much I love sports and how important they are to me, so I wanted to share that," said Katie, a junior.
Compton High has no official funding for a tennis program so coach Patrick Pratt is paid an annual stipend of $2,100 from the associated student body's budget. But he and Kemp now have the ability to start a boys' and girls' team and get ready to compete. Kemp started compiling a mental list of fundraisers the team can start in the summer to buy jerseys.
"I'm willing to do whatever I have to do to get this going," she said. "If it means our students will be competent in every sport, then we'll get them help as it comes."
Meanwhile, on the weed-riddled court, Pratt skipped over a massive crack in the asphalt and returned a new team member's serve.