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High school student spreads love of tennis

November 02, 2009|By JANET HEIM

LEITERSBURG -- Tennis has been a big part of Lara Seidman's life, and the Smithsburg High School senior thinks all students should have the opportunity to experience the joy that the sport brings her.

That's the reason Lara, 17, started a program she calls "Love All," transforming youth through tennis. The name, which uses two tennis-scoring terms, sums up her care for others and the intent of her volunteer work.

Last spring, she began thinking of ways she could give back to the community, even though she had completed the Student Service Learning hours required to graduate from high school.

She realized that not all local youths had the same opportunities to take tennis lessons as she had, and she began calling local youth organizations in search of a venue for sharing her tennis skills with others.

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Lara, who plays singles at Smithsburg High, spent a week last summer working with children at the Boys & Girls Club, most of whom had never picked up a tennis racket before, she said.

Through the 90-minute sessions for five days at the North Hagerstown High School tennis courts, she taught a group of students the basics -- forehand, backhand and serving -- and by the end of the week, they learned how the game is scored.

It was a week of great personal satisfaction for Lara, who said she was pleased at how quickly they progressed in their skills.

"It was really touching to see the major effect I had. One little boy said he wanted to try out for the tennis team when he got to high school," Lara said.

Lara has been playing tennis since she was 5 and takes lessons at a tennis club in New Market, Md. She said she has had many tennis instructors and incorporates the best of their teaching methods into her instruction.

She said her parents, Allan and Ruth Seidman, have always been good role models for healthful eating and staying active.

That lifestyle made her a natural to participate in Washington County Hospital's KidShape program, a nationally recognized family-based healthy lifestyle program. Lara spent about 30 minutes on a recent Tuesday night working with 11 children, introducing them to tennis at Elgin Station in Hagerstown.

The goal of the program is to encourage more active lifestyles, while exposing students to a variety of activities each week. The program also includes information about healthful eating and making better food choices.

For Lara, a healthful lifestyle that includes tennis makes her happy.

"I think it helps with self-esteem. You feel better about yourself. It makes it easier to get along with other people," she said.

Becki Weir, co-site coordinator for the KidShape program, said Lara is a perfect role model because she is so passionate about physical activity.

Lara is exploring college options and hopes to continue playing tennis, either at a Division III college or at the club level. She hasn't yet settled on a major, but she loves math and science.

"I feel really good when I'm able to help other people, especially some who haven't had the same opportunities as I did. I just hope I'm making a small difference with a short tennis lesson," Lara said.

For more information about the KidShape program, go to www.washingtoncountyhospital.com/kidshape or www.kidshape.com, or call 301-790-8964.

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