By Erik J. Martin
IF YOU’RE LOOKING for a new pastime
that combines a blend of healthy exercise,
stimulating recreation, fun competition and
social interaction, you might want to take a
look at tennis.
Nearly 18 million Americans play tennis
today, and participation in the sport was up 4
percent in 2013, per the most recent survey
data from the Physical Activity Council.
Those are impressive numbers for a game
historians believe originated in France around
900 years ago, when the palm of the hand was
used to strike the ball (rackets were introduced in the 16th century).
“Tennis has emerged from being a country club sport to having enormous appeal
with the masses. The game truly has a global
reach,” says Marvin Dent, the North Brunswick, New Jersey–based head coach for the
U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) Eastern 16s
Intersectional Team, who cites the international fame of stars like Serena and Venus
Williams and Roger Federer as evidence of
the game’s substantial popularity.
Improved cholesterol levels, muscle tone,
bone health, balance, motor skills and hand-eye coordination are among the multiple
health advantages of playing tennis, says Dr.
Neeru Jayanthi, medical director of Primary
Care Sports Medicine for Loyola University
Health System, Maywood, Illinois.
“You can introduce the sport as early as
age 2 and play at as old an age as you like, so
long as you have enough balance and coordi-
nation and follow exercise guidelines from
the American College of Sports Medicine
[viewable at tinyurl.com/pctqrtz],” says
Jayanthi. “And you don’t need a physician’s
approval to start playing, unless you have
medical risk factors.”
Additionally, becoming a better player
often has a positive effect on how you handle
“There are many ups and downs in tennis that imitate daily life. Players must rely on
their own capabilities to stay in control and
remain calm without choking under pressure,” says Mike May, director of racquet
sports at The Houstonian Club in Houston,
and a Costco member.
Yearn to learn
Tennis can be a frustrating activity without the right instruction.
“Trying to teach yourself how to play tennis is like trying to teach yourself how to play
the piano, which is not easy,” Dent says. The
solution? “Enrolling in a group class is a good
way to begin your education, and private les-
The Costco Connection
Costco warehouses carry the graphite and
fiberglass Head IG Heat tennis racket (Item
#952051) and a pack of 60 tennis balls— 20
cans (Item #672381).
The benefits of
can last a lifetime
TO DETERMINE PROPER racket grip size,
follow these tips provided by Mike May,
director of racket sports at The Houstonian Club
■ Grip the racket in your hand.
■ Be sure you have enough space to place the
index finger from your other hand between
the tips of your grip fingers and palm.
■ If you can fit your index finger snugly, you
have the correct grip size, even if you plan to
add an overgrip (soft padded tape wrapped
around the handle).—EJM
sons are a better investment after you’ve had
“A good personal tennis coach can help
you find your potential, no matter what your
level of coordination is, and provide tips to
become a better player quickly,” says May,
who cautions that private lessons often cost
$60 an hour or more.
Other experts agree that it’s best to start
with group beginner lessons and, if you want
to get more serious about the sport, graduate
to private one-on-one instruction from a personal tennis coach. You can find one by asking for referrals from tennis clubs and more
experienced tennis players.
The better coaches have earned certification through the United States Professional
Tennis Association (USPTA) and/or the
Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), although
tennis instructors aren’t required to be certified.
The experts advise that a good personal instruc-tor/coach can be found via a word-of-mouth
referral from a more experienced player.
Having the right equipment and clothing
is also important: a quality racket, non-mark-ing tennis shoes (running shoes are not suitable for tennis courts), proper tennis shorts or
skirt (some tennis clubs have dress codes as
well), tennis balls and optional accessories,
such as head or wrist bands and a tennis-racket-specific bag.
Additionally, try to interest a friend or
loved one in taking up the sport with you; the
two of you can encourage each other to learn
and practice, and you’ll have a motivated
partner to play with and measure your progress against.
Lastly, learn where the best places to play
are in your area. The USTA estimates that
there are 250,000 courts nationwide, many of
which are free outdoor public courts at parks
and community centers. To find clubs, courts
and programs in your area and learn more
about tennis, visit usta.com. C
Costco member Erik J. Martin is a Chicago-based freelance writer.
In our digital editions
Click here for a video on
volleying tips with tennis
pro Andy Murray.
(See page 13 for details.)