On Tuesday, I Hit Some Tennis Balls

The last time I played tennis, Mark was three. That was 30 years ago. We were living in Chesterton, Indiana. One Saturday morning, Mary and I drove down to the public courts and hit the ball around for an hour or so.

Our brand of tennis back then was less about developing our games and more about finding a family activity that offered the adults some entertainment, while affording Mark the chance to romp around. The fenced-in nature of our venue wasn’t lost on us.

Like so many activities that drop away, life, parenthood, and moving back to Maine pushed tennis out of our lives. I’d eventually dust off my baseball glove and find out I could still pitch competitively. We sold our racquets.

In May, I saw a small ad in The Notes, a long-standing free weekly classified paper that I enjoy perusing whenever I pick it up. Foreside Fitness & Tennis in Falmouth was offering a 4-week Beginner’s Tennis Program in July.

Tuesday, I hit some tennis balls-Lesson#1.

At a certain stage in life, you discover that some fitness activities enhance having a quality life, and some just lead to injuries and frustration. The key to remaining active seems to lie in maximizing the former. Adding a bit of variety to your training now and then may even keep you fit as a fiddle—or in some proximity to being fit after 50.

I had contacted Coach Karen a few weeks after I cut out the ad and pinned it to my bulletin board in my office. I received an enthusiastic response back. No worries or obligation. She had a spot for me in the evening program if I wanted it.

Later, my part-time job went away. I emailed her and mentioned I no longer was working part-time and could I switch to the morning session? She emailed me back saying “yes,” and that “tennis was way better than work.” I’d never met her, but I liked her already.

Last week, I ran into Dick’s in Topsham to see if they had any tennis shoes. They had one pair of size 13s, and they happened to be made by Nike, always a good omen for me. I was committed to at least four weeks of tennis. I didn’t even need a racquet to start, as Karen said she had an extra one I could borrow.

I am preternaturally punctual. Often, I’m the first one showing up for whatever I’m attending—concerts, parties, a new job, funerals—tennis lessons are no different. Checking in at the desk, I learned my coach wasn’t even there, yet. I sat and read a pro tennis magazine. Sitting there, I realized that the last time I was in this building was in 2006. Mark was home after hitchhiking across the country and prior to his moving to Boston. He was working the front desk and we met one night after I got out of work to play racquetball.

A slight, athletic woman who looked like a tennis coach carrying a bag that was nearly as big as she was, headed for court #4 where we were supposed to be meeting. I entered the large fabricated metal part of the building that housed the tennis courts and introduced myself.

Five minutes ensued, while me and my fellow tennis newbies completed while the person at the desk processed payments. It was now time to hit some balls, at least I hoped we would.

Coach Karen introduced us, and we quickly said why we were there. Like me, most of the others had played some tennis, got away from the game, and decided now was a good time for a refresher.

After a quick overview, a review of grips, and her plan for the next four weeks, Karen had us line up at the center mark on the baseline and began sending soft shots over the net with the instruction for us to return it. It felt great making solid contact with the green ball that very first time, sending it spinning back over the net into the opposite service box, then sprinting back to the end of the line. We continued doing that for five minutes with all of us making some solid shots, while also mishitting a few into the net. We then paired up and practiced hitting some balls back and forth across the net on our half of the court for a bit. Fifteen minutes into our first lesson, the four of us were beginning to work up a lather. This was fun and it was also a workout.

Coach Karen showing us how it’s done.

The hour-long first lesson flew by. Instead of feeling like perhaps I’d made a mistake thinking I could play tennis again, I was disappointed when the hour came to an end.

Next week, we’ll learn the fine art of the backhand shot. At the end of our four weeks we’ll be ready to keep score and play some matches.

I just learned that there’s an app that marries tennis with technology, allowing you to find fellow tennis players in your area and invite them to play. Fitness, plus a social component might be why this study indicates there are substantial benefits associated with hitting a ball with a racquet.