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Sat, Oct. 19

Tennis through the eyes of students

This last college semester just ended and with that I received a multitude of tennis papers from the students that were in my classes. One of their projects is to write a one-page paper on anything in regards to tennis. It opens my mind as to what they come up with and I have a couple to share, with their approval.

"Community College Tennis", by Michelle Gill.

So you sign up to take a tennis class at your local community college and hope for the best, right? You hope that your coach/instructor doesn't entirely suck and that the people enrolled in your class aren't awful, because, of course, there's no distinction between beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Everyone is simply lumped together.

THEN, on top of that, you're asked to write a one-page paper on anything that has SOMEthing to do with tennis.

I moved here from a big city and big cities are what I'm used to. Due to a lack of available information about tennis in a MUCH smaller town than I'm used to, I thought that a community college would be my best bet. The tennis class offered is at the only community college in the third-best retirement community in the entire United States.

What did I find you might ask?

I found in this somewhat sleepy, mile-high town was some of the most hilarious tennis you could have ever imagined.

You have the loud, vibrant, young tennis players that aren't the greatest, but know how to have fun. You have the ones that keep everyone entertained, even if it's only to get other people to open up and enjoy this sport. You have the fresh-out-of-high school tennis players that were amazing in high school and are still trying to find their way to a college team. Then you have the 68-year-old man who you know in his younger years had a serve that could rip the shirt right off your chest, until he trips over a ball nearly giving everyone, including himself, a heart attack.

Blend all these people together and all you can do is laugh.

Suddenly the tennis class that you took for fun and to hopefully meet some new people has become a group therapy session. People from all walks of life rarely learn anything about tennis from each other; they just share life experiences, occasionally taking a tip or two from the coach, who somewhere throughout the semester has become a person that you have everyday conversations with. You begin learning things about people that you, in your wildest dreams, couldn't have imagined.

Community college tennis is unlike anything else. You learn a little about a lot, and a lot about a little, including tennis.

"Mr. Entertainment: Good, Bad and Sometimes Ugly," by Doug Korell.

In the 1980's, I didn't follow tennis much and wasn't really old enough to even know what I was doing when I did play for fun. But if it weren't for John McEnroe, I probably wouldn't have had much interest. The reason, which some will probably find sad, was he was entertaining in my eyes.

His outbursts and racket throwing always seemed to make the sports highlights and most people thought he was a crybaby, a whiner, and a poor loser. I, on the other hand, thought he was passionate, driven, and at my young age, fun to watch. At the same time, he was also an amazing tennis player and the best at the time.

I'm sure many professional tennis players cringed and felt he was an embarrassment to tennis when he'd go off on the refs. But I believe he brought attention to tennis, which actually got people interested in following it more. After a while, it didn't matter why they were initially interested in the game, all that mattered is they liked it, which may not have happened without the exposure John McEnroe gave it.

Although I don't condone swearing at refs and throwing rackets, this paper's purpose isn't to judge whether it's right or wrong, but to point out the possible positive effects it can have on a sport, as strange as that may sound.

These days I don't have much time to follow tennis, but I do enjoy watching matches with players like Roger Federer from time to time. But, as amazing as today's tennis players are, and as exciting as some of the matches are, I don't see them as entertaining as the days of John McEnroe.

It may not matter as much anymore since I already enjoy tennis, but I wonder if tennis had more exposure to entertaining players like John McEnroe, if more people would start watching and become tennis players themselves?

(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 choward4541@peoplepc.com)

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