Originally Published: October 21, 2003 6:10 p.m.
When you hear the phrase, "Tennis is the game for a lifetime", it's a fairly true statement.
You won't see many kids younnger than walking age hitting balls with a racquet, but by the age of 2, you can certainly have a junior racquet or racquetball racquet in their hands. You can roll the balls on the ground and have a great time for two to 10 minutes watching them make contact with two-handed swings in every direction.
They also like to throw the ball over the net and enjoy the entire process. Just remember that when they're done, they're done.
Copying mom and dad, or brothers and sisters is just one of the reasons kids continue to to want to play as they get older. By the age of 5, there are fun tennis programs for Tiny Tots to elementary kids to get into to help gell them into more of what the game has to offer.
Hand-eye coordination skills, simple games that let them try different strokes…groundies, volleys, throwing service motion contests. It doesn't have to be task-master oriented and shouldn't be. Fun, quick safe drills, with lots of laughing.
By the ages of 8 to 12, depending on the child, how to play a real game of tennis can be started for most; mini-tennis, score-keeping, the basic rules and easy rallies. Very little emphasis on winning or losing, but having a good time and trying your best, whatever your ability level.
Teen-agers to young adults are becoming more aware of their peers and their capabilities. Depending on their personality, you have to be careful not to make them feel inadequate. Continue to let them come along at the speed they want. If you can get them in with a group of their friends, just like soccer, baseball or any sport that has lots of players to socialize with, they are more likely to enjoy the the game of tennis.
Solid nurtured competition at different levels can help make some of these players push themselves to want to join in tournaments, the high school team, regional and state competition. A few players will even want to reach higher levels and that means quite a bit of traveling. Hopefully they have parents that have the means to help them out. Coaching by professionals will help guide this path in what's next and how to get there.
The college years to getting started in the work force and having families, normally doesn't leave as much time to follow-through with what has been as juniors a sometimes weekly or more often tennis event. So if a few years go by and the tennis has fallen off to a real hit-or miss situation, it may take a while to settle back into the game.
Just enjoy tennis for the moments you can put together until your life settles back into a decent routine and you can spend a little more time becoming the player you once were.
By the time we're in our late 20's to early 60's, we generally find that if we played tennis as kids or even always thought we might like to, that we once again being to find outlets to play.
Is there a public or private tennis facility nearby? Do they offer lessons, leagues and playing groups? How much time do I have to give it and are any of my firiends tennis players that I might join in with?
Does the local college offer tennis classes to get my game back together and meet some people who also love the game?
I've just retired and want to fill my time with new activities that are fun, provide some exercise and socialability, aha….I seem to remember having a great time with tennis. It's realitively inexpensive, doesn't take up too much time and I can play doubles or singles depending on how well all of my body parts are working at this stage of the game.
Drop-In-Tennis…..what's that? You mean you just show up on Tuesday or Thursday mornings at Yavapai College right now at around 8 a.m., warm up and at 8:30 a.m. can play three 35 minute rounds of doubles? The cost is only bringing a can of balls with me. Heck, I'll give that a try since the level is advanced beginner to intermediates….what do I have to lose except a pound here or there.
People end up playing the game of tennis even after knee, hip and shoulder replacements and surgery, maybe not to the capacidy they did as youth, but many into their late 70's and 80's.
The longer you stay active the more you enjoy this life, and tennis has truly been that life long activity for many.
*Don't forget…..The A-B and C "Boo Doubles Tournament", this coming Friday from 5:30 to around 10 p.m. at the Roughrider Tennis Center. Wear a custome and enjoy a fun evening of tennis. Cost is $15.00 per person and includes prizes to the finalists, food and costume winners. Call 445-1331 to enter.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or firstname.lastname@example.org