West Side honors Sweeney for her work in school's tennis program

By Jennifer Lassiter
Star Staff

West Side Elementary held an annual tennis parade Thursday to celebrate its newly resurfaced tennis court, and to honor its longtime tennis coach and Physical Education teacher, Joyce Sweeney, who is retiring after 34 years.
   Sweeney has been the backbone of the tennis program at WSE, and has kept tennis going strong in the community.
   The United States Tennis Association (USTA) donated $2,500 under their "Adopt a Court Program." Southern Tennis Association matched the contribution, and WSE's PTA donated $500.
   During the ribbon cutting, Mayor Sam LaPorte proclaimed May 27, 2004 Kids' Team Tennis Day. Sweeney was surprised with an award for her tremendous efforts in the tennis program at WSE.
   City manager Charles Stahl was on hand to cut the ribbon along with Mrs. Sweeney and schoolboard members.
   The program began with a parade around WSE school block with students twirling tennis batons, and playing air guitar with tennis rackets. City officials rode in sleek convertible cars followed by an Elizabethton fire truck.
   Music was provide by the Elizabethton High School Jazz Band. Fortunately, the band members made the event after taking their final exams earlier in the day. They performed at all Elizabethton home basketball games and recently at their spring concert.
   Stephanie Eleger, a WSE fifth grader, presented the "History of Tennis." The program was held on the tennis courts, where teachers dressed in authentic costumes of the 1900s to the represent the evolution of tennis.
   "Queen of the Court" Jessica Brumit, 10, represented the New Millennium segment of the program. Brumit won the Jr. Championship at the state level this year. Brumit also participated in the Kids' Team Tennis program.
   John Brumit, father of Jessica, said, "This program will help other kids at school to become involved."
   The Elizabethton High School tennis team played a match, followed by ETSU women's Coach Steve Brooke and ETSU student tennis player Jewel Aldea. Coach Brooke said: "This is great for Elizabethton."
   Sweeney's passion for tennis inspired her to teach the sport to students. During her in-service, which all teachers attend yearly, she learned how to teach tennis in PE classes.
   Sweeney desired more. Seven years ago, she wrote a letter USTA for help in starting an after school program. Jack Center, Program Coordinator for USTA in Tenn., and Sweeney became good friends and built the outstanding tennis program at WSE that still exists today, Kids' Team Tennis.
   "Sweeney has introduced children to a lifetime sport," said Center, "which teaches them sportsmanship, self esteem and they have a good time."
   In the afterschool program, Kids' Team Tennis, kids who participate gain a membership to USTA, which included, T-shirts, a racket, a trophy and the monthly magazines. The cost to join is approximately $35.
   Sweeney secured donations through anonymous businesses in Elizabethton to assure any student who wanted participate in the program could, regardless of their financial situation.
   Joyce's ability to delegate and recruit over 100 volunteers has contributed to her success with her tennis education goals. Approximately 1,200 kids have become involved with the USTA program, and she has taught over 300 kids in one year how to play tennis.
   Sweeney conviced Cartoon Newtwork to come to Elizabethton in 2001, with their SMASH tennis program. Sheila Wandell a volunteer coach said, "Cartoon Network normally doesn't come to small towns, but because of Sweeney's efforts and the participation in the program, they did."
   Throughout her career and over her lifetime, Sweeney has shown outstanding leadership and determination. The USTA awarded Sweeney with and Educational Merit Award and Co-Coordinator of the Year award.
   Recently her entire family was recognized as Tennessee Family of the Year by Southern Tennis Association for their combined efforts in the sport of tennis.
   Although Sweeney is retiring, she has promised to keep up her efforts with the tennis program in the community. Sweeney said, "Keep playin' tennis."