Wednesday afternoon presented a study in opposites at the small campus just past the blinker on Barnes Road. For the most part, it was quiet outside, a misty spring snowfall dampening most sound.

But from inside the large inflatable dome came the sounds of laughter and a recurring rhythm of thock, thock, thock.

Inside the dome, the source of this euphony became clear: Vineyard Youth Tennis Center Executive Director Scott Smith and fellow coach Michael Halisky were leading their afternoon tennis classes. For four hours each weekday and three hours on Saturday mornings, two hundred Vineyard youngsters rotate through the courts. In the summer, when all four of the center’s courts are available for use, nearly 325 children take advantage of the unique facility.

What began in 2002 as a way to offer Island children free tennis lessons has, as Mr. Smith puts it, “exploded, really,” in the past few years. All operating expenses are still paid through a trust fund established by an anonymous private donor. But nine years after its inception, the VYTC’s reach and impact have moved beyond the limits of the Island. With more junior United States Tennis Association tournament players than ever before competing in off-Island play and alums contributing in big ways to the high school tennis teams, the VYTC is making waves. It’s staff is rounded out by program coordinator Nicole Hawkes and coaches Nina Bramhall and Michael Pylan.

While the idea of producing the next Melanie Oudin or Andy Roddick is a nice one, what really drives the VYTC staff is not the destination. It’s the journey.

Charlie Morano dropping a winner. — Ivy Ashe

“You get to know the kids and watch them develop,” said Mr. Smith. “I’ve had a lot of the kids who are [now] 15 since they were tento see them go from one level of play to the next, that’s what’s more rewarding than anything.”

A time lapse of sorts showcasing this process takes place during the afternoon classes which begin with first and second-graders breaking into earsplitting grins as they scoop tennis balls out of the air using fishing nets and attempt to return balls tossed over the net. By the end of the day, the 13 and 14 year-olds have taken over the court, crushing forehands and racing to take charge at the net.

For VYTC parents, Melissa Hammond of Edgartown and Mollee Lewis of Vineyard Haven, the time lapse has played out in their own families. Ms. Hammond and Mrs. Lewis, parents of Charlotte, Max and Tessa, and Chace, Graham and Finn, respectively, are at the center six days a week, watching their kids who range in age from 7 to 14. When Ms. Hammond describes the VYTC as “home,” it’s only a partial exaggeration.

“It’s a place that really welcomes you,” she said. “[The staff] are not only great instructors, they’re great on a personal level.”

Jen Combra of Oak Bluffs, whose daughter, Sophie, participates in the 9 and 10-year-old class, also praised the coaching staff and their ability to connect with the students.

Zephy Thompson doesn’t even need a racquet. — Ivy Ashe

“They’re so friendly and so smart and so fun. It’s like coming to gym class.”

The VYTC also offers the opportunity to meet new friends from other Island towns and, because of the tournament play, from the mainland too. When older students move on to high school, the community built within the center does not fade away. If anything, it becomes even more noticeable. Last year’s MVRHS varsity boys’ team started three freshman, Kent Leonard, Justin Smith, and Justice Yennie; all of whom had started at the VYTC.

Coach Michael Halisky demonstrates the fishing net stroke. — Ivy Ashe

Going from VYTC to MVRHS, “actually wasn’t that much of a change,” said Kent, who first began playing at the center when he was 9 and continues to do so in the off-season.

Indeed, that most of the team had already played together had a “very large impact,” on the unprecedented success of the 2010 season, said high school tennis coach, Ned Fennessey. The team went 15-3 in the regular season, won its conference, and advanced to the semi-finals of the MIAA tournament.

Whether guiding siblings and friends through an afternoon of fun or sending players such as Kent Leonard on the path from tentative novice to varsity athlete, the aim of the VYTC remains the same.

“They’re here and they grow,” Mollee Lewis said. “And it works.”

Max Hammond takes it down the line. — Ivy Ashe