Originally Published: January 20, 2015 6 a.m.
Working and playing in the world of tennis since the age of 12 and here in the Prescott area for 35 years, it's hard to believe the whirlwind of activities that have taken place during that timeframe.
The journey started in a very simple scenario. Our local tennis association in Newark, Ohio, put on four Saturday hour-long clinics for youth with a volunteer group of tennis enthusiasts. They were not trained professionals, just goodhearted tennis players who decided to lend a helping hand in the sport they loved. But for me it created a lifelong love affair, career and affinity for a game that has taken me places and introduced me to people I never imagined.
Now almost 60 years old and still enjoying the thrill of playing competitively, teaching tennis to all levels, helping to create avenues of play for others, writing columns about the game and its people, visiting historic sites where tennis began, meeting icons, collecting relics of racquets, books, posters, trophies and great memories ... life is good.
There are so many sports to participate in and tennis is one that is somewhat outside the realm of team endeavors. But when you take a person between the ages of 5 and 85, put a racquet in their hand, give a little instruction and an opponent of similar ability level and there aren't many who give it a fair shake that don't come away with wanting to do it again and again throughout their lives.
From wood racquets to the newest of space-age technology. Sneakers of yesteryear, long trousers and skirts, flat drives and slice to anything goes in tennis attire, not to mention heavy topspin and bullet serves. Great players from past to present: Tilden, Budge, Lenglen, Kramer, Connolly, Marble, Laver, Connors, Evert, Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Smith, Graf, Agassi, McEnroe, Sampras, the Bryans, Federer, the Williams', Nadal, Djokovic and hundreds more on the ATP and WTA tours. Well-known instructors who have pushed tennis forward from a teaching aspect: Teach Tennant, Mercer Beasley, Harry Hopman, John Gardiner, Vic Braden, Dennis Van Der Meer and Nick Bollettieri, the USTA, USPTA and USPTR.
In the Prescott area the sites that started it all: Iron Springs, the Armory, Hassayampa Country Club, later at Prescott High School sites, Yavapai College and then the Prescott Racquet Club.
Organizations like the Yavapai Tennis Association, the Prescott Area Tennis Association, past presidents, board members, volunteers, high school and college coaches, and some very good teams and players. Yes it's been a journey, not to mention the recent resurfacing of the PHS courts and new rebuild of the now seven lighted championship courts at Yavapai College.
Just like a business, the game of tennis has to be nurtured, taught to all ages and levels, kept up with good facilities, given a voice through its locals, and enjoyed to its fullest extent with all kinds of outlets. People who meet, play singles, doubles and mixed doubles become friends and evolve to an extended family.
Forty-eight years of tennis that I wouldn't trade for practically any other profession. And still looking forward to many great times on and off the court with all of you.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or email@example.com.