Originally Published: December 9, 2010 11:37 p.m.
When you're an established tennis player, you normally have your weekly tennis game(s) and maybe a lesson or clinic to help improve and maintain your physical and mental skills.
These outlets alone are fun, social and semi-competitive avenues that most of us look forward to in perfect, warm and even cold weather seasons. The only thing that gets in the way of an addicted tennis players' games are: injury, iced - wet or snowed-in courts, holidays, vacations, or illness.
Anything short of death and a true tennis player will be at his or her weekly group.
While most players are fine with their circle of tennis friends, there are others who grow bored by not so much the social aspect of their racquet-wielding friends, but the lack of new blood and excitement that a broader scope of tennis can bring to the plate.
If you fall into this category of tennis player, the question becomes: 'Where can I find more players that are also looking for a new and more competitive field that reaches beyond your subdivision of players, parks and recreation drop-in, or even local tennis club?'
There are many different ways to go about reconfiguring whom you end up playing with and against, but then again you need to know just how much time, effort and expense you want to go to.
Joining a local college tennis class will normally put you in front of 12 to 20 new players of various ability levels for a semester for a reasonable price.
You'll receive a bit of instruction and normally find a range of ages from teens to oldsters. The mix is very interesting and in most cases works out well.
This is a good way to go for beginners to intermediate players. It gives you an instructor who will pave the way to introductions, basic fundamentals, match play and an easy credit you probably don't really need.
Getting on the USTA Southwest Section web site shows numerous ways to involve yourself and/or partner in USTA leagues for adults (18 and over), seniors (50 and over), Super Seniors (60 and over), Tri-level teams that are of mixed abilities 4.5/4.0/3.5, and many other organized teams of different ability levels in singles, doubles and mixed situations.
As Prescott and northern Arizona have grown in population, there are more and more of these types of USTA leagues available without having to drive all the way to Phoenix. If you're a go-getter, you might become a captain, or league coordinator, helping to create one of these special seasonal leagues.
Once a year there are a few annual tennis events in Prescott, Sedona, Cottonwood and Flagstaff that get a wide range of players from northern Arizona together as well as other areas to compete. Most have city/town or county championships, NTRP tournaments on Memorial and Labor Day weekends, monthly scheduled half day Grand Prix, Senior Olympics, and each club run fun three- or four-hour tennis socials that are normally open to the public as well as their members.
The higher-level tennis players normally have the hardest time finding different opponents because there are fewer of them to go around.
In a town like Prescott (population of 50,000) there might be 10 to 25 top players who are 4.5 and better in level, thus getting a league of them together and playing against other teams from others cities or attending sanctioned state, Southwest and National tournaments is more involved in time, effort and expense, but if you want to play against different folk, those are your choices.
Tennis is a healthy and fun sport that while competing against others to test your skills brings those juices to a heightened state of concentration that creates remarkable feelings.
Taking the game you own and putting it against players you don't know is the next level in testing how you fare in what would be considered a more stressful situation.
During these times you learn a little more about yourself, and the many new people you meet and become friendly with over time become a network of extended tennis family you will enjoy for years to come.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org