WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- With equipment purchased through a U.S. Tennis Association grant, the Whitman College women's tennis team and coach John Hein are ready to start teaching the game they love at a local elementary school.

The Whitman contingent will start teaching second graders at Walla Walla's Sharpstein Elementary School on Monday, Nov. 31.

                                          John Hein

Sharpstein has three second-grade classes of about 25 students, and by the time the program ends on Friday, Dec. 11, each class will have received four 45-minute tennis sessions. Instruction will take place during regular physical education classes.

"Doing it during PE time ensures that no child misses out on this opportunity to learn the sport of a lifetime and to interact with the wonderful and talented group of student athletes we have on our team," Hein says.

Hein used the USTA Pacific Northwest Community Development grant to purchase $700 worth of Quickstart tennis equipment. The Quickstart program, designed specifically for younger players, uses shorter rackets, lighter and larger tennis balls, and smaller, portable nets and court markers.

Whitman's grant provides for about 40 rackets, six dozen foam and low-compression balls, two 18-foot nets, and enough markers for two 36x18-foot courts.

"Tennis is so great for kids, especially 5- to 10-year-olds, but historically it is not very accessible to many of them due to cost, stigma and only having adult-sized facilities and equipment," Hein says.

Before taking the head coaching position at Whitman in August of 2008, Hein worked as a community outreach and talent identification in London, England, for Great Britain's Lawn Tennis Association. His duties ranged from providing weekly tennis lessons in primary schools to helping identify and direct the most talented young players to the High Performance Academy hosted by the Riverside Chiswick Health/Racquet Club in West London.

          Katie Oost

Next week's start of tennis instruction at Sharpstein is just the start of Whitman efforts to spread the sport of tennis to more youngsters, Hein says. Both the Missionary women's and men's tennis team hope to provide similar instruction, as time allows, at all local grade schools in the months and years ahead.

The Whitman tennis teams also plan to partner with the city of Walla Walla's Parks and Recreation Department as well as the Walla Walla Country Club's junior tennis programs in the pursuit of tennis instruction for youngsters.

Along that line, the Whitman women's team has its annual Winter Tennis Camp slated for Jan. 11-15 in the Bratton Indoor Tennis Center. Sessions will be scheduled for both younger and older players. More information about that camp is available by sending an e-mail to . . . womenstennis@whitman.edu.

The Missionary women start their spring season Feb. 12-13 at home with a series of three Northwest Conference matches.

Hein and assistant coach Katie Oost have 12 players on their roster. Oost played four seasons at Whitman, graduating last spring. She capped her playing career by earning Intercollegiate Tennis Association Scholar-Athlete honors. She is serving as an assistant coach this academic year as she applies to graduate programs in the field of psychology. 

Hein played tennis at the University of California-Santa Cruz, where he earned his bachelor's degree (with honors) in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. at UC-Santa Cruz in 2000. He was an assistant coach with the UC-Santa Cruz women's tennis team from 1999 through 2003.

Hein completed his master's program in biological sciences (with distinction) at California State University-Chico in 2006, and then taught biology classes at both Cal State-Chico and Butte-Glenn Community College during the 2006-07 academic year.