MELISSA - It was a hot time to be on outdoor courts, but that didn’t stop 51 campers from participating in the Melissa Independent School District’s tennis camp held June 25-28 at Melissa High School.

This year’s camp had a 45 percent increase over last year’s camp enrollment.

“It’s catching on, so that’s good,” second-year Melissa head tennis coach Brad Crawford said during a break on day 2.

Three sessions, aided by plenty of water and sunscreen, were spread throughout each day. The last ended under the lights at 9 p.m. Ten kindergarten through third grade campers got the early morning slot, with 24 fourth through eighth graders next and Crawford’s 17 high-schoolers wrapping the training day with a three-hour period.

Crawford has coached tennis for two decades.

“It never gets old,” he said. “Especially with the younger kids, when you see the light come on and they start really putting their strokes together. They start realizing, ‘Oh, the reason I do that is because of this.’ By Thursday, three-fourths of these kids will have grown leaps and bounds. Sometime on the second day it kind of clicks.”

Assisting Crawford were Coach Manuel Avila along with just-graduated Melissa varsity tennis players Lilly Hubbard and Justin Mercer.

Hubbard is headed to the University of Oklahoma this fall.

“My major for this next year is elementary education,” she said. “So I really wanted to work with kids anyway. Since I’ve graduated and I’m not playing in college I’ve missed tennis so it’s a way for me to work with kids and teach them. … I really like the kids, especially teaching them new stuff, watching them improve.”

Mercer will attend Collin College where he plans to get a degree in education and participate in the ROTC program.

“I knew I was going to enjoy it,” he said of tennis camp. “I was always, like, a tennis coach on and off the court during the season. Every time our team went to matches I would coach everybody and cheer them up.”

Coaching the kids was a little different, Mercier explains.

“You’ve got to have a lot more patience,” he said. “Other than that, it’s not much different.”

Also helping out one day was one of Crawford’s former players, Kaylie Brown, who went to play at Harding University.