Score an Inexpensive Workout
Tennis is a fairly simple sport. At its core, all it takes is a racquet, can of balls, sneakers and a court. But it is beyond the basics where players can excel with strategy, power, control, speed and poise.
From free outdoor public park and recreation tennis courts to sleek indoor and private clubs with monthly dues and fees, tennis players volley their way to fitness, burning some 500 calories in an hour while also enhancing balance, speed and coordination.
The competitive need can be satiated for those craving victory while there is also a sense of team work and camaraderie that develops for those who may want a more social or recreational experience. Either way, a certain grace is learned if you're on the losing side of the net.
Tennis is a lifetime sport. Whether starting as a child or senior, lesson opportunities abound, from local community group instruction to private coaches before entering team, league, tournament or just pick-up play among peers.
Getting started with beginner's equipment is fairly reasonable.
Expect to pay between $19 and $39 for a child's racquet and between $69 and $129 for an adult, according to seasoned high school tennis coach Gary Faltin of Durham.
"Don't go lower or higher or put yourself at a disadvantage from the start, " he explains. "Don't cheap out on the kids. Don't give them your old one. It belongs hanging on the wall. And don't get them one they will grow into. That just keeps them from performing well today and develops poor technique."
Though indoor court time can cost around $30 an hour, Faltin is quick to explain outdoor court time is free.
Faltin is also active in the New Hampshire chapter of the United States Tennis Association and suggests contacting them for information on anything tennis, like college tennis scholarships, wheelchair tennis, free membership for children 10 and under, NH Junior rankings and finding an area pro.
And heed his advice: "Now get out there and play!"
Expert Advice with Gary Faltin
Durham's Gary Faltin knows tennis. He's been a high school tennis coach for 16 years at Oyster River and St. Thomas, a University of New Hampshire tennis instructor, directed the New Hampshire Tennis Junior Development program and has been United States Tennis Association/New Hampshire board president for 12 years. All four of his children played for their college teams; plus, he's got a mean serve.
Should I play a bit before taking a lesson? In the days before a lesson, play in your natural style and identify your weaknesses and strengths as you see them. In the minutes before a lesson, hit some balls to get loose and mentally ready. Easy ground strokes and serves are best.
Which is better, private or group lessons, and how do I know if the instructor is any good? I like group lessons for beginners. There is a team-like atmosphere and less pressure to perform. Also, no information overload. Advancing players need more physically intense instruction and theory and tactics information. Private lessons are needed for that. Good coaches will be able to lay out a skill progression they envision for you, and can suggest the style of play you are best suited for. Ask questions and gauge the depth of their responses. Also ask if they belong to PTA or PTR. Those are Tennis Pro organizations who rate their members.
What's the best way to get kids into tennis? Start with a basket of balls and toss them to your child, so they make the same swing every time. If they miss, suggest swinging slower and always blame the "bad toss." Also, sign them up for your community rec tennis.
What about picking up the game as a senior or adult after playing during youth? Of course, that's a great idea. Your body will tell you what you're capable of, so change your strategies if necessary. There are not many 60-year-old serve and volleyers!
OK, I want to play a lot. Do I join a league or just play with my friends? Join a league or Round Robin. There the players can't forget or cancel on you. You will have to face ranges of style and ability that will make you improve. You won't be too good or bad for the competition. Enjoy your friends' game as a bonus.
What's the difference in playing inside versus outside? Inside you have one opponent. Outside, two or three at least: temperature, wind, distractions. Play them better through preparation and game-planning and you will likely win. Conditioning and mental focus count for so much more outdoors.
The Mount Washington Resort at Bretton Woods and Cranmore Mountain Resort were sites for the Volvo International tennis tournament from 1973 through 1984, attracting greats like Jimmy Connors, Rod Laver and a young Jennifer Capriati.
Head's Liquidmetal 8 ($80) tennis racquet is known for its value, power and control. It's focused on lower-level to intermediate players needing a bit of a bigger sweet spot.
Tennis balls come in all sorts of sizes, felt thickness and pressures. Wilson's Green Dot Starter Tennis Balls ($6) come four to a bunch and are designed for beginners in that they are a bit lighter than regular tennis balls.
Tennis involves a lot of starts, stops and side-to-side motion so leave those running shoes behind. Consider an Adidas Barricade ($80-$125) shoe that gets a thumbs-up for comfort and stability.