Column: The up and down sides of playing tennis as we age
It’s known as the sport of and for a life-time, you can play from the age of 5 and if healthy enough into your 90’s, yes - the game of tennis.
There’s no doubt between the ages of 15 and 50 we’re a bit more in our prime to be very physically active, and after the age of 50 a few things begin to happen.
One of the good things to take place for many of us (except me) is that if we’ve had a family to tend to with kids, they’re probably out of the house, which gives more time and money to enjoy life for ourselves.
We decide it’s time to do some of the things we used to enjoy, while getting some good exercise, work on our coordination and thinking skills, while meeting and socializing in a manner that really doesn’t take up the whole day or break the bank.
Maybe we’re retired and need to get back into better shape. And we worry about some things that can get magnified in our gray matter like....will I be able to keep up, will my muscles be able to take it, will I look like a goof, not to mention getting absolutely killed in playing may not make you feel all that bad personally for a while - but will anyone want to play with me twice?
At the Yavapai College tennis facility we have a wide array of players of all ages and ability levels. Private groups, drop-in’s, playing groups by ability, leagues, college classes, clinics and tournaments.
The game of doubles is prevalent but there are certain players who prefer the game of singles because it’s a better work out and they get to hit every ball.
I’ll turn 62 in a few weeks and like to think I still have some game, but then I get into a drill session with someone like 25 year-old Taylor Harris who played tennis at Prescott High School.
Taylor’s in tip-top shape, getting ready as a Marine to deploy to Afghanistan - quick as a cat, fast, heavy top-spin and left-handed to boot, you want him on your team, not as an opponent.
Bottom line his skills really showed me why a top open 60 year-old shouldn’t think they can hang real close to an open 25 year-old. It was still fun, entertaining and made me feel S-L-O-W.
I asked a few locals who are somewhere between their 60’s and late 80’s their thoughts on playing tennis as we age.
Paul Sadick (87) say, “I like the social aspects, the competition and still trying to improve no matter my age.”
Working too much and dealing with bum knee has Robin Fox looking forward to playing again, but in the mean-time enjoying watching tennis on TV.
“For me, stamina and aches and pains are not an issue thankfully, said Chuck Carey (late 60’s), but mental concentration and a tough “closer” mentality is tough to maintain. While I “know” to focus and close out matches, I have more trouble doing so.”
“Why do I play? First, I love the game. Second, it is great exercise (especially singles) and beats the gym. Third, I love competing against younger players and hopefully beating them, or at least giving a competitive match.”
Kay Emery noted some of her challenges as she’s aged are, “Reaction time and some movement. My balance isn’t as good as it used to be and backing up to get an overhead is a concern”, but the big one is, PRIDE. “It’s hard to watch my level of play decline.”
“I continue to play because I really enjoy it. It keeps me healthy and active while bringing me into contact with really nice people....so count me in for a few more years.”
Avid players George (85) and Flo Reynolds said, “The physical problems and the resulting mental attitude has changed over the years as well as our skill levels - guess that’s to be expected.”
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.