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|EDUCATION: Bachelors degree from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania||BLOG: None provided|
|CERTIFICATIONS: Tennis instructor||CURRICULUM VITAE: None provided|
When I was a kid, a neighbor friend had a crush on a boy who played tennis at our high school courts. She and I would regularly bum around the courts so we could watch him and his friends play. After a few times, we either got brave enough to attempt to play or bored with watching. Whichever it was, we dug out the old wooden rackets my parents had in our garage, along with a couple balls and got out there. Having only a couple tennis balls, we either had to make this thing of getting the ball over the net happen or shag balls the whole time. My neighbor friend got over her crush, but— this tennis thing— I was hooked. I made my grandma buy me a copy of “The Handbook of Tennis” and I went into my parents’ basement in the winters to practice hitting off the wall.
To one degree or another, I’ve always been “plus.” I was the kid that “boom badda boom” was directed at in school. Tennis was my escape. I would watch tennis on TV for hours and read every how-to I could find on the game. After clawing my way onto the high school team, as a freshman, at size 24 and a rival telling me I wasn't supposed to be there, I lettered each of the 4 years. I went on to play in college, still seemingly trying to prove to myself and the world that the fat girl deserved a spot on the tennis team. Around my junior year in college, I teamed up with the local park and starting teaching an adult beginners’ program.
After completing my college internship, unrelated to tennis, I had a difficult time finding a job and resorted to my “fall-back-on” job teaching tennis. So I figured I’d teach tennis, until the “real job” came along. That was 18 years, 4 parks, 2 country clubs and one tennis center ago. I’ve had a smattering of other jobs in there and my size has fluctuated, but the tennis in me has never died.
Maybe you are feeling nostalgic back to the old days of when you played or are thinking about trying something new, but something or things have been holding you back. I know those feelings of self-consciousness; that feeling of being out of place, afraid of what people might think. I know those feelings, because I have them too. I'm held back by the same insecurities with other things in my life because of my size. Tennis, though— I'm here to tell you about!
Usually for women, some of the first concerns tend to be about comfort. Being comfortable, feeling comfortable and looking like we belong.
Don't let the little tennis skirts scare you away. In most cases, any comfortable active wear will do. If you're playing a match, though, you will want either shorts with pockets or a skirt with shorties underneath to stash an extra ball. Whether that be tight fitting or loose, its up to you and your comfort. More companies than ever are making a variety of plus options. I found Fabuplus to be a great resource for new active wear. After clothes, you’ll want to address your footwear. A cross trainer shoe will do, but tennis court specific shoes are better. Tennis shoes support the side to side motion used in the game and the soles of the shoes are non-marking and/or clay court appropriate.
A simple internet search in your area for racket clubs, country clubs, public parks and tennis centers should yield some program options. Call each for information to hear the details. You may want to try a beginner group class, private lessons or bring a friend to split a class if its been a while or your first time. If you're already a player and want some competition, try USTA.com or UltimateTennis.com for leagues.
The pro shop staff you encounter is looking to help steer you into the right program with the right instructor to get you involved. I can tell you this: none of the staff is looking at you and thinking you shouldn't be there. Most pros have been playing nearly their whole lives and tennis has been a huge part of themselves. I'd dare say, at some point, tennis has been, or currently is, an obsession of theirs. They're ambassadors for the game and help to create your tennis experience. Let them.
In medicine, they have “do no harm.” In tennis we have, albeit unofficially, “send no one away.” That's not what this game is about. This is a game of inclusion. Tennis is also a game of deception,—the good kind—the fun strategic kind. The kind where, we know not to underestimate anyone based on their looks!
You will need a sword to slay the dragons when you get to the courts, ahem, excuse me. I mean, you will need a racket. If you decided on a class, there are normally rackets available to borrow. Ask in advance when you call for information. As you go along, your instructor will be able to guide you through the process of buying the best racket that suits you when you're ready. The old racket you used in high school might not make it easy for you today. Technology has advanced the game and has made it more accessible for all ages and abilities.
Some things to prepare for your first trip to the courts: Hydrate well the day before, as well as the day of, especially in hot temperatures. Warm up, maybe with a walk or quick spin on a stationary bike, followed by some stretching. Pack a water bottle. Grip the racket more gently than tightly. Stay positive and self encouraging and you're ready to go.
Its a good idea for anyone starting out to be cognizant of moving with hips squarely over the feet. Lunging for a ball may put you off balance, especially if you haven't played before. Aim for small deliberate mini steps, taking your time to react sooner, not quicker.
Keep in mind, no matter how skilled, every player was a beginner at some point and has swung and missed. The idea is to laugh out loud and try again. Half the people that play tennis today are going to lose!
In the flight attendant tutorial at the beginning of a plane ride, they tell you, in the event of an emergency, to put your own oxygen mask on first. To me, this is an example of taking care of yourself before you can adequately help others.
We women must put our proverbial oxygen mask on first, being compassionate with ourselves and exercise the same care we do for our friends and family. A mother that cares for herself mentally and physically sets the tone and example for the family. You're a valuable commodity and deserve to occupy your rightful place in the world and on the court!
Learning something new, certainly something physical, has a multitude of health benefits. Reaction time, coordination, motor skills and balance all weaken as we age. Tennis can become part of your overall health routine and the catalyst for incorporating other physical activities. There are emotional benefits as well; relieving stress, stimulating your competitive spirit and, of course, it’s a fun family activity too.
Tennis played recreationally is an anaerobic activity, meaning the heart rate recovers back to normal after quick bursts of effort. This also means it doesn't take an extended prolonged physical effort to play. Doubles equates to less court area for one player to cover and a partner to strategize and have fun with between points. I’ve seen many a granny outwit younger, faster opponents with strategy and placement in doubles. Singles, its all on you, and a larger area to cover.
If you're looking to up the ante, look for a Cardio Tennis class in your area. Cardio Tennis is a faster paced tennis workout class, and most certainly aerobic, if you'd like to combine your tennis with a workout. There are many people of all sizes and abilities that I see playing and having a good time. By no means is it size or weight dependent. This business of having to lose weight first, before we allow ourselves everyday pleasures, has got to go.
Many straight sized women have concerns too; you're not alone. That size 2 over there, well, she had a bad experience in her last attempt in a group class and is terrified to be here. Her friend had to convince her the nice, friendly plus size pro's class is nothing like her last experience. She was brave, and with the help of a friend, is enjoying the game again. Everyone is a product of their emotions, regardless of size. The key is to believe the positive things you say to yourself, not the negative.
Tennis courts and tennis facilities are peaceful, beautiful places to be. Notice the little breeze rustling the smell of the flowers around the court as it comes through; the sun on your skin and the sound of children playing in the distance. Be mindful of your own personal experience and how your body feels when you walk onto a tennis court. Some people equate playing tennis to the same feelings that one would have sitting on the beach. It's nearly a meditation in and of itself.
Challenge your excuses. You can get out there. You can play tennis. I'm sure of it!