About two years ago, I researched some interesting facts about tennis and wrote an article for this newspaper. ("A look at the sport of tennis," March 6, 2017). I was pleasantly surprised to learn that, worldwide, tennis is the fastest-growing individual sport.
With that said, I am often equally surprised at the number of open, outdoor courts that I find, as I teach lessons around the western suburbs. Weekday mornings, evenings and weekends, I constantly find open/empty courts, from Chanhassen to Edina, and Wayzata to St. Louis Park. Even Minnetonka and Chaska High Schools always have plenty of open, available courts to play on, and I just can't figure out why.
Let's take a moment to explore some of the benefits of getting involved in this great sport, through, what I call the six C's of tennis"
- Cost. You can pick up a decent racket off Craigslist or even find one at a Goodwill store for under $50. Throw on some shorts, a T-shirt and a pair of tennis shoes and that's all you need. Tennis instructors bring the tennis balls. So, the cost to get started is minimal and public, outdoor courts are free to use.
- Cardio. A good tennis instructor can make learning fun and a great workout too. It's certainly more fun than an hour on a treadmill. The stop and start component with bursts of explosive energy involved in chasing down and hitting a fuzzy yellow ball makes for good exercise. If anyone out there thinks tennis is a "sissy" sport, just give it a try and see how many calories can be burned in an hour of tennis drills.
- Camaraderie. Admittedly, playing singles in tournaments can be very lonely. When I used to play in tournaments, I would often encounter opponents who were very detached, to put it politely. The competitive spirit and unsportsmanlike conduct sometimes robbed me of joy. But then I got involved with the USTA. Playing team tennis renewed my joy and love of the game. I recruited players and built several teams that had winning records and advanced to area tournaments. I loved coaching players and seeing them improve and move on to higher levels of play. Many of my friendships from 20 years ago are still alive through a common appreciation for the sport.
- Continuance (longevity). A recent study in Denmark showed that playing tennis may extend your life by nearly 10 years. Other studies have also established that exercise helps you live longer and being active, rather than sedentary, has mounds of physical and mental health benefits. In the Denmark study, tennis beat out badminton, soccer, cycling, jogging and swimming for adding years to your life. Need I say more?
- Costume (clothing). Tennis outfits are a little boring for the players during Wimbledon, with its "white only" clothing rules. But, just you wait until the U.S. Open in August, when the players will be sporting the latest designs. Who can argue that the fashion element is not also an attractive part of tennis?
- Compensation. Last but not least, nearly everyone on the planet has heard of Venus and Serena Williams. What you didn't know is that they had no formal tennis training until their teens. At ages 11 and 10, Venus and Serena were ranked No. 1 in the state of California. Their only training came from their parents, who also had no formal tennis experience whatsoever. The parents learned from reading books and watching videos and they coached their daughters to become world champions. Their basic strategy was to hit the first ball of every point as hard as you can. Venus won her first pro match at age 14. Organized tennis has failed to make their success story widely known. Today, the two girls each have a net worth into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Not bad for an investment in tennis balls, rackets, shoes and time together as a family. If they can do it, so can you.
If I haven't yet convinced you to give tennis a try, why not at least watch a live tournament? Summer is a great time to check out the USTA website for local tournaments and most players love an audience. Or why not go to the U.S. Open in New York this year? Ticket prices for the early rounds are very reasonable. The people involved in tennis are some of the nicest. Most of the behind-the-scenes workers are volunteers and much of the player food, perks and prizes are donated by local businesses and sponsors. So give tennis a try, you'll be pleasantly surprised by it's six C's.