Tennis at NEHS to Stay
Just three short years ago, tennis at Northeast High School in Kansas City was unheard of. In its 100+ year history, the school had never offered tennis as an MSHSAA sponsored sport. Now, thanks to the work of Franklin Fleming, Dr. James Sanders and the Northeast Middle and High School administrations, the school offers varsity tennis for boys and girls, and over 150 students are given access to tennis through Physical Education classes.
Northeast is continuing to build its tennis programs, and the school has been awarded grants by the USTA which will be used to provide tennis courts on-campus. Until now, Northeast was reliant on the MLK Jr. Tennis courts, nearly seven miles away from the school. With their grant money, Northeast will paint full-dimension tennis courts just behind the middle school.
“The idea is that now, students can come out for free clinics in our own backyard,” Fleming said. “Instead of bussing over, we can actually play at the court behind Northeast Middle School.”
The courts will be a crucial stepping stone for the success of Northeast High School tennis, as it will give students an opportunity to be introduced to the game at an earlier stage of life.
“We didn’t have a way to feed into the high school program. Players weren’t finding tennis until they were freshmen,” Fleming said. “Now that there are P.E. classes at Northeast Middle, they can get that experience from the very beginning of seventh grade. It’s so encouraging.”
Fleming is no stranger to building tennis programs from the ground floor. Prior to his time at Northeast, he was at the Warrensburg Community Center, where he grew the program five-fold in just two years.
Fleming says that he can already see the impact that tennis has had on the Northeast community.
“The community support for the tennis program has grown,” he said. “More parents have been willing to really come together and be there for each other. It’s pretty special.”
Fleming has worked hard to teach his students that tennis can be for anybody and everybody, and that it is something that can stay with them for a lifetime. In his mind, one thing is certain: tennis at Northeast is here to stay.
“The teams have talked,” Fleming said. “They’ve let it be known that they like this sport, and that they won’t let it go away. This is going to be something that we have at Northeast High School.”
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