Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Arguably One Of The Best

         Did you know that one hour of tennis can burn five hundred calories?

It is the one sport where you can watch the tireless legs of a child, running down the cunningly placed ball of a wise and savvy minded grandparent.  It is the sport for everyone, the sport forever.  Age 5 or 95, tennis is enjoyed for the duration of an entire lifetime.

The accessibility of courts and the lower costs of entry level racquets have bridged the income spectrum.  You can buy a can of tennis balls for two dollars.  Right down the street in the park, or at your local high school, is a beautiful court ready to work out your body and mind.  Even tennis lessons have become more attainable for a broader class of kids and families. With the creation of new and better programs which meet the needs of everyone, an increasing number of people are finding that they too can capture the benefits of the sport.

It's a therapeutic workout for the brain as well as the body.  Focus, relax, strategize, analyze, run!  An art where every brush stroke sets up the other, culminating to reach a series of perfectly balanced cerebral and athletic achievements.

I don't have time!  No really, we don't have as much time as we used to, and every year seems to bring less.  Golf takes a good three hours to play.  We can't seem to find enough social or play time.  With tennis, at any time of day you can sneak away to meet a friend or three for a quick hour of rallying and enjoyable human interaction. You can even play inside if it happens to be some blithering sub frigid temperature, trading in those snowballs for tennis balls. With snow concealing most other options, once again its tennis to the rescue.  In storage is the golf bag, soccer ball, baseball glove, jousting lance, and, OK, maybe not that last one.

It is an individual sport.  Working independently to solve an equation while growing confidence and learning proper etiquette.  Is there another sport where honesty is such an important factor?  Tennis is a battle, but with integrity!  It's also a team sport, whether for high school, college, or Davis Cup.  The benefits of a good team dynamic are endless.  Hey kids... play college tennis!

We have such great role models to follow in tennis, not only with men, but women as well!!  How many sports can you think of where everyone that you know can recite the names of the top female stars.  But back to role models...... Arthur Ashe!  We can't begin to imagine the war that he fought every day, and won. Through tennis, he made a huge difference in so many peoples lives.  We can thank Billie Jean King for her magnificent effort in the women's rights movement.  Look up both of those names and you will be astounded at what they accomplished outside of tennis, but by using tennis as their conduit.

There are so many reasons that tennis is arguably one of the best sports being played anywhere in the world and...... wait, no, it is the best!

Tennis Therapy

Therapy can take on many forms.  Nature, music, professional counceling, art, and meditation are just a few of the things that people find therapeutic value in.  Tennis has been proven in thousands of cases to be a priceless treatment for a variety of issues affecting copious numbers of people.  In this article I will mention a few of these situatoins. 

Two of the people I give tennis lessons to are in the Airforce.  Each  have spent time in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  Although we haven't discussed anything in detail,  from the little I know about their time overseas, both guys have been involved in situations which have caused atleast some levels of sub surface trama.  I can't help but think that channeling that energy into an ever improving tennis game must be prodigously theraputic.  Post tramatic stress disorder affects many soldiers that face tramatic experiences while serving our country.  I suggest that tennis could be used along with other treatments to aid the healing process for our military.

  ADHD has affected millions of people across the world in both children and adults.  One of the best ways to deal with hyperactivity is with an individual sport that you can improve upon over a lifetime.  Tennis is among the very few sports that are a perfect fit for those with ADHD.  Learning to play tennis is a training ground for improving attention spans and controlling emotions.   Kids with ADHD sometimes feel like they don't fit in on athletic teams.  In tennis, everyone fits in. The player is a one person team most of the time, but they do get to work as a team in doubles, when and if they choose to.  The kids that I have witnessed tend to develop a passion for the sport, which translates into a desire to work on the patience, control, and focus that it takes to become better players.  The interesting thing is, some of the ADHD symptoms actually end up being positive qualities on the court. Tennis also has them working hard to change the things hindering their tennis game, and their lives.

Women facing breast cancer have found increasingly successful treatments.  The 0 stage 5 year survival rate is now 93%, and the stage 1 is 88%.  These numbers are improving every year because of earlier diagnoses, better treatment, and healthier lifestyles.  There are now several breast cancer survivor tennis groups which do an amazing job promoting tennis for anyone who has battled the hurtful disease.  It came from the actuality that tennis is a sport for life.  Breast cancer survivors are using it as a life long physical and mental therapy that keeps them in shape, active and healthy.  Tennis is a positive pursuit that the enduring breast cancer survivor can develop and enjoy forever.

Tennis as a therapeutic tool has been professionaly recommended for many years, and for those perscribed, it has had life altering results. I see the benefits of using tennis as therapy to be endless, and for these very specific situations, the proof is undeniable.  

The Tennis Pathway (New England And Beyond)

   Tennis begins in different ways and at different times for a many people.  The road taken also varies greatly. What I intend to show here is the tennis pathway from the very earliest stages to the absolute highest pinnacle of the game.

In the beginning the idea is to simply get young kids into a tennis atmosphere to have fun with parents, siblings, and friends.  Using foam balls and small racquets, they can begin quite early to enjoy a little friendly competition, while unknowingly learning things like hand, foot, eye, coordination.  The key for these little aces is to have fun with age appropriate tools and little to no instruction.  Being taught is only fun when you want to be taught.  They most likely aren't interested in that just yet.

Kids wanting more is key.  Helping them off the court before they themselves want to put a lid on the activities is sometimes a good idea.  And if it appears they are done,  you should get out of there fast, making sure not to push it.  This could be in as little as ten minutes on up to approximately 30 minutes.  There is a much better chance for those eyes to light up the next time a tennis outing is mentioned if you wrap it up at the right time.

Years go by and their skills improve dramatically and automatically.  The instruction they get has become natural.  They can begin to receive more instruction, with more repetition, but still, not too much.  Realizing that things grow little by little over many years is important.  Over fertilizing the garden does the opposite of the intended result.  They must continue to have competition.  They must continue to play games.  They are now Junior Aces moving ever closer to becoming Junior tennis players.

 Maybe it is time to seek out more organized competition.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) could be part of their next step but should also be combined with many local fun singles and doubles matches.  In the New England section, the website is http://www.newengland.usta.com - they have organized tennis tournaments for junior players beginning under age ten and progressing all the way to age eighteen.  Many players take this entire journey.  It is part of the pathway.

The USTA Junior begins in his or her section, and from there they earn points, leading to higher rankings within New England.  If the players excel in their section, the possibility is there for them to compete on a national level.

The journey continues.....   High school tennis might then be combined with USTA.  A team dynamic allows players to organize around a common set of objectives using the different strengths and skill sets of each individual.  The options are many and some bypass high school tennis in favor of staying focused on a more elevated level of competition.  Others may leave the USTA juniors, and are happy just enjoying and benefitting from their high school team.

College tennis may be next.  We know that one good reason for having kids focus on tennis in the teen years is that it limits the possibilities of going down negative pathways.  Is college any different?  If they can get on a college tennis team by doing well in the USTA juniors, then they will probably have more success in college and beyond.  Getting on a college tennis team is so very important.  USTA juniors are over.  High school is over.  Continuing with tennis will keep yielding more.  They will form relationships with similarly achieving young adults and these friendships can last for life.

Finally, If all the stars are in alignment, being a professional tennis player is out there, yet seems to elude most who attempt such heights.  It rarely happens, but nothing is impossible.  Many players that get to a high national level, require higher levels of practice competition.  Some of these kids will move to Florida or other southern states, with warmer weather and a denser population of highly ranked national USTA and ITF (International Tennis Federation) players.

 Those with the capability of entering professional tennis might choose to postpone college, while others will attend and ultimately go on to enjoy pro careers after the college experience is complete.

The tennis pathway connects to many successful roads and the garden yields an abundance of tremendous opportunity.

They say it is a game for life, and on so many levels, tennis keeps on giving.

All the best,

Kerry  413.559.1370  backyardtennispro@gmail.com

Monday, June 4, 2012

Create A Racket In The Yard

As a kid we all played sports in the backyard.  We learned a little bit about soccer, football, gymnastics or baseball, all on that lush green or not so green lawn right outside the back door.  We could spend hours throwing the ball or doing cartwheels, actually getting pretty good without much in the way of instruction.  Tennis really isn't any different.  Actually; I think it could lead to kids becoming great tennis players, simply by having a little family, backyard, racquet fun. Any old racquets will do just fine. (hint) Go to a sporting goods store or online and get a few foam tennis balls. Foam tennis balls are much more fun and a lot better for learning in the yard.  Tell the kids if they get really good at backyard tennis, maybe you'll take them to a real tennis court someday!  Bring the foam balls there too :)

All the best,

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Is Quickstart Tennis The Answer?

 The USTA has formatted tennis for kids 10 and under to play on smaller courts with smaller tennis racquets and lower compression(slower) tennis balls.  It's called quickstart tennis.  It seems like fantastic idea to keep kids engaged, having fun, enjoying more success, and possibly making them want to stay involved in playing tennis longer.  I for one think it's a great idea because from what I have seen, the kids seem to love it!  The format has been going on in Belgium and France for many years and they have had great results with their version of Quickstart.

   We are in the early transition stages and this year any junior playing in a 10 and under USTA  tournament now has to play under those guidelines, so basically, we are all teaching them this format. It is new and a few things need to be worked out, but overall it's a good start. But is quickstart tennis alone going to keep kids in the game longer?  I think one of the biggest problems holding kids back from getting involved with, staying with tennis, and ultimately getting the USA back on the top of professional tennis is the perception that tennis is unaffordable.

   Tennis seems expensive, but really, you get a couple racquets, a few balls, and head out to a free public court and your playing tennis. So what's the problem?  To really get good at tennis you have to play and practice all the time.  That means hitting thousands of tennis balls with some quality instruction mixed in.  Then there's the need for playing lots of practice sets and competing in tournaments while paying for gas, equipment, tournament fees, and even indoor court time in regions where it's not warm all year round.  It adds up but it's worth every penny.  Most of these kids end up in the top of their class, get into the best colleges, and go on to have very successful lives because of that early investment.  Many families find it difficult to have their kids choosing tennis as there focus sport.  Compare the costs of signing up for town recreational sports leagues with the cost of tennis.  It is more expensive, but it could also be a better investment with bigger returns.

   If the USTA wants to get U.S. tennis back on top, they have to figure out what happens after quickstart, the transition period, and the image of tennis. Of course I know they are doing a lot of wonderful things and the USTA is a great organization, but maybe along with quickstart tennis they could put on some free tournaments in every USTA junior section without requiring membership right away.  Running a campaign that changes the image of tennis so that tennis is viewed as more of a mainstream less elite sport might do wonders!  If more of our kids were given chances, it would create a tennis landscape with a higher level of competition.  Ultimately more of our kids could rise up, and maybe if the stars were in alignment, more U.S. players might achieve that elite pro level.

Quickstart will surely make a difference, but I think coaches, instructors, the USTA, and anyone who loves tennis should reach out more to help kids and show families that it is not cost prohibitive to travel down the tennis pathway to success.

All the best,



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Amherst MA Tennis Group, Backyard Tennis, & Kerry Saunders present:


Wednesday, August 22nd 2012 
From 5:30PM to 6:30PM
Amherst Middle School tennis courts, Amherst MA.
Ages 12 to 90 are welcome!

Space is limited to 10 participants so please register early!!! Call or email with any questions and/or if you wish to join the fun :)

All the best,

Kerry Saunders
AMTG Director of Tennis
Cell: 413-559-1370
Email: backyardtennispro@gmail.com

Thanks to all 12? of you that came out and lit up the court with your smiles, skill, and super awesome tennis loving attitudes!!! Everyone did such an amazing job! Stay tuned for pictures :)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Amherst MA Tennis Group and Backyard Tennis presents


Free tennis clinic-

                 (Ages 5-11)Wednesday, July 18th 4:30PM-5:30PM

                            Amherst Middle School tennis courts.

                                      Limited to ten participants.

   If we can't fit you in for the first clinic, we'll make sure you get in on the next one!  No tennis racquet? No problem.  Just let us know and AMTG's Backyard Tennis will let you borrow one.

Please call or email if you wish to participate and an email confirmation will be sent with more details.

If your kids can't wait until the clinic and want to have fun play tennis sooner, we currently have lesson openings available.

All the best, Kerry.  413.559.1370 backyardtennispro@gmail.com

Update: The free kids tennis clinic that we held on Wednesday July 18th was a ton of fun!!! Thanks to everyone who braved the threat of thunder storms to help make it a great success. We had so much fun that we forgot to take pictures!!! And it never actually rained thanks to a "no rain" dance done by someone who will remain anonymous!