This is the year for you to get into shape, meet new people, and try something new. Discovering a new sport may be the key to your success. And if you’re looking for a total body workout, tennis may be just the answer.
“Tennis has long been considered the sport for a lifetime, because players can start from early childhood and play all the way through their adult life. Not many other sports can stake that claim,” contends Bill Mountford, senior racquets director at Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford. “It’s a terrific way to burn calories while doing a fun, social activity. Players are constantly shifting and adjusting and sprinting and stopping and recovering between every shot. The rotation — or twisting — on every forehand and backhand and serve is great exercise for your core muscles. Striking the ball consistently tones your upper body muscles.”
When trying out a new sport, it’s important to be comfortable where you’re playing.
“Find a place and ask a manager or a teaching pro to help set up some games or to include you in a drill with players of similar playing level,” Mountford suggests. “You could join a USTA [United States Tennis Association] or inter-club team because that dynamic provides like-minded teammates as well as competitive matches to help gauge your progress.”
Elizabeth Gagliardi, owner of Solaris Racquet Club in Stamford, acknowledges that many people are intimidated when trying something for the first time.
“It’s important to make people feel comfortable,” Gagliardi explains. “There are so many beginners; you will be in good company. Just bring your racket and we will do the rest.”
John DeFilippo, director of tennis at Solaris, recommends playing singles for a more aerobic workout.
“I would suggest beginning by working one-on-one with a professional to learn some of the basic grips and swings that will help with injury prevention,”
DeFilippo says. “Or do it with someone you will be playing with … The two of you can be taught how to practice together.”
DeFilippo knows a lot of people gravitate toward golf, but it takes longer to get a good workout.
With tennis, “you are in constant movement. In an hour of tennis you get a good workout,” DeFilippo explains. “Everyone’s looking for that quick activity every day — it can definitely help with that.”
Noting how difficult it can be to find motivation, Austin Gardella, tennis manager at New Canaan Racquet Club in New Canaan, suggests finding a public facility and playing with a friend.
For new players, Gardella says to “stop and hit the ball at waist level,” helping develop the right grip and the best feel of the ball. To improve, Gardella recommends playing three times a week.
Charles Akinloye, director of tennis at Trumbull Racquet Club, advises working with a professional as well. “The pro will teach you the basic way of playing the game, how to win, and how to learn from losses,” Akinloye explains.
Akinloye also suggests taking advantage of free trial lessons or memberships. “We have a program in the summer in which we give a free lesson to players to see if they like the game; 95% of the time they love it and want to play more.”
Many people enjoy tennis and become healthier in the process. “By playing tennis, it helps your mental being, your physical being, and helps improve your endurance,” he says.
Greg Moran’s first experience playing tennis spurred a lifetime passion for the sport.
“I remember my first lesson with a pro that lit the fire,” recounts Moran, owner and director of tennis at Four Seasons Racquet Club in Wilton. “If the first experience is a positive one, you are going to come back.”
If you feel you’re not ready for lessons, Moran suggests trying cardio tennis.
“Cardio tennis classes are a great aerobic workout,” Moran says. “It’s an exercise class on a tennis court with upbeat music and a lot of tennis balls. [The class] is geared toward each person to work on the individual’s tennis.”
Moran cautions against becoming too competitive too soon. “Everyone wants to play right away. The emphasis changes from learning to winning and you can develop bad habits,” Moran remarks.
One of Four Seasons’ oldest members was playing tennis at age 93, a testament that tennis is a sport for a lifetime.
“Kids that played are still playing as adults and are passing the passion on to their own children,” Moran concludes. “It’s a great sport for adults to pick up. It’s something you can do for life.”