Column: What is it about sports that make them fun?
Did you ever take the time to think about what makes the sport you play fun? Certainly each sport has a certain segment of people who find different things about the athletic endeavor they want to try right up their alley and other sports not worth their time and effort.
Basketball, football, soccer: run, bounce, kick, shoot, tackle, guard and catch.
Baseball, tennis, and racquetball, pickleball: hit, throw, serve, bounce, catch, tag and run.
Boxing, wrestling, and kickboxing: hit, protect, kick, protect, maneuver and protect.
Golf, horseshoes, Frisbee golf, and bowling: swing, throw, roll and walk.
Swimming and diving, gymnastics, roller-skating, ice-skating, skate boarding, biking: rolling, gliding, pedaling, contorting, balancing, jumping/landing, flipping and special movements.
And yes there are so many more athletic endeavors to take a look at or try that fall into so many other categories, extreme to mild.
So why does tennis appeal to so many people?
When the modern game of tennis came about in the 1870’s the industrial revolution was going strong. People had more time to socialize and were looking for things that they could do as a group.
Country Clubs were developed for the richer folk to congregate and enjoy life together, but what could they do.
Croquet was a fun new game both men and women could play together on flat grassy surfaces, not very taxing, but fun. Tennis and golf also fit the bill. Add in a swimming pool and a place to eat, play cards, hold meetings, parties and board games and you were off and running.
If you happened to be on the ocean or decent sized lake, you could add in boating, sailing, as well as fishing at your new yacht club.
But there was even more to this new game of tennis.
It seems by happenstance as opposed to design the size of a tennis court was just the right size to test the human body in being able to reach most every shot or serve that can be hit in singles and doubles with the right training and aptitude.
The net at 3 feet also seems be adequate in height so balls can be scooped up within one bounce or out of the air unless hit in an unusual manner or playing against someone much better than your ability level. The ball is also not too fast or slow.
If the court had been made larger or smaller in size, the net higher or lower, the ball faster or slower, the game probably would not have the same appeal - too easy or hard.
The change in types of surfaces, regulation in size of racquets (although not materials) have also in general helped keep the game of tennis ample in regards to fairness and fun in playing socially and in professional competition.
When it seemed the game of tennis was becoming too powerful with the advent of stiffer and larger racquets, two things happened - players came to better terms with returning serves and court owners slowed down the bounce of the ball with more sand in the paint on hard courts.
Clay and grass courts were already slower in general due to their natural characteristics.
If you can’t quite cover the court for singles anymore, there’s the game of doubles where covering half the court seems to work pretty well. And if there’s still a problem with getting around, don’t quit, just add in a two-bounce rule (like in wheel-chair tennis) to keep on playing with your friends - or you could try to talk your group into playing with low-compression balls which slows down the game just enough.
Each sport you play has to work considering your age, athletic prowess, social expectations, time restraints, cost and ease to reach facilities to be viable and fun - once again tennis is one of those wonder-sports that meet most all of the above with flying colors.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.