DIXON – The power of schoolyard cajoling boosted attendance at the 24th annual Emma Hubbs Tennis Classic on Wednesday.
Back in March, Reagan Middle School student Ryan Lawton was busting the chops of one of his friends, Daniel Ferguson, an avid tennis player who regularly played in the Hubbs Classic. Lawton's sports repertoire at the time included baseball, basketball, track and golf, but not tennis.
"I was making fun of him that he didn't get first in the tournament," Lawton said. "He said, 'It's hard.' I said, 'It can't be that hard.' Then he said, 'Well, why don't you and Ethan try it then?' I said, 'OK, maybe I will.'
"That's how me and Ethan got started playing tennis."
'Ethan' is Ethan LeSage, who, like Lawton, didn't give tennis a try until earlier this summer. He had been honing his skills in baseball and basketball, but not tennis.
"I like how it's fast-paced," LeSage said, "and you can play it with another person or by yourself. It's just a fun sport to play."
Ferguson, along with two more of his friends, Jonathan Rivera and Lucas Healy, played a lot of tennis. It really wasn't that difficult, Ferguson noted, to get Lawton and LeSage to join in the action.
"We just told them it was a lot of fun," Ferguson said, "and they just volunteered to try it out. We said you're going to lose some, but you're going to win some too, so just have fun."
Ferguson also has gotten four more friends – Seth Wiseman, Isiah Wilcox, Quentin Hoyle and Blake Piller – playing tennis this summer, but they were unable to play in the Hubbs Classic.
Baseball and basketball are also on Ferguson's summer sports plate, but it's tennis that is the main course. He participates in youth lessons 5 days a week at the Hubbs courts, and also plays occasionally on nights and weekends.
All that tennis, he feels, makes him better in other sports, citing better speed, agility, endurance and hand-eye coordination.
"You pretty much have to use all of your skills," Ferguson said.
The 13U boys division was one of four divisions contested on Wednesday, and one of the best-attended with 10 players. Ferguson finished third with 44 games games won, two less than winner Dillon Nitz and one less than runner-up Rivera.
LeSage placed seventh with 15 games won, while Lawton tied for eighth with 12 games won.
Hubbs surveyed the scene as the action in the Boys 13U Division unfolded, and smiled.
"We just have the most wonderful young men who are really dedicated to playing," Hubbs said. "I can just see great high school teams coming, no matter where they go to school. I just love to see them out here enjoying the game."
School: Reagan Middle School, 8th grade
Parents: Eric and Molly Ferguson
FYI: Started playing tennis at age 3. ... Ringleader for group of tennis-playing friends. ... Finished 3rd among 10 in 13U Division in Hubbs Classic