This is a continuation of an earlier blog post. Anne spoke with her brother, Ed Kelly, about his passion: Tennis. Ed is a healthcare administrator by day, but nights and weekends, tennis is his passion. He is a long-time teacher and coach and is a certified tennis instructor, USPTA Level 1.
Anne: So I’m thinking about getting out my old racquet (putting on new strings) and finding a court. What else should I do to get ready?
Ed: When I hear from a new student, the first thing we talk about is where they are with their fitness. Rope jumping is a great way to get into tennis fitness as well as running stairs and hills. Tennis is aerobic and anaerobic (with [long rallies] and without oxygen [quick moves]).
Another importance is stretching. After you have warmed up for 15-20 minutes you can use Therabands tied to a doorknob, and slowly imitate a swing with resistance, both forehand and backhand.
You can also strengthen your forearms by using a pole and a bucket. Bore a hole in the middle of the two foot pole, run a rope through the hole and tie to the handle of a bucket and put some water or weights into the bucket. Roll it up and down with your elbows tucked close to your sides. This really builds your forearm muscles which are key to tennis.
The USTA website also has tons of links for other exercises specific to tennis.
Anne: Do you recommend lessons right away, or later, after you have some experience?
Ed: I absolutely recommend lessons right away. Take a few lessons to make sure your mechanics are OK. This will get you to the end point in solid fashion in the shortest time.
I also suggest private lessons. More expensive but you get MUCH more tennis per dollar that semi-private or group lessons. In the end, much efficient use of your dollars.
Anne: How do I find a teacher?
Ed: Get a senior pro (they are definitely worth the money) that has been formally trained and certified (United States Professional Tennis Association – look your potential instructor up! uspta.com), and make sure they have had experience at your level.
What I know now compared to what I knew when I started teaching is apples and oranges. You want a reputable pro so ask around. At your club, ask the people at the reception desk – they will know which instructors are the real deal. Use the above USPTA website’s “find a pro” locator as a starting point. They rate the pros from 3-1, with 1 being the highest qualification level. This assures you they have passed written, oral and practical tests.
Come prepared with questions.
Interview your potential instructor and come prepared with questions.
Make sure you also find a tennis facility that is convenient to your home or work. That is the most important factor to staying with it while you learn.
Anne: I’m concerned about getting committed to a coach I might not like.
Ed: Almost all coaches will offer a first session that is either a free introductory lesson, or a lower cost, or a short lesson. These are called “meet and greets” and happen all the time. Take advantage of this. You want to really like your pro. Scout the facilities, too. You want a nice place to play. Make sure they have the activities that you want (camps, social events, etc.)
Anne: Isn’t it really expensive?
Ed: Tennis does not have to be an expensive sport. Lessons will usually cost about the same as a personal trainer. Many coaches will meet you at a public court, and some clubs don’t require membership to take lessons. Ask around. But find the best pro you can. There are some phenomenal coaches out there. Some are probably better psychologists than tennis pros, because it is such a mental game.
Anne: What about injuries?
Ed: I worked at an orthopedic group and they were really looking forward to the active baby boomers getting older—lots of future injuries! But it doesn’t have to be that way. Tennis is not terribly hard, but it is not terribly easy.
Good tennis instructors can also refer to a personal trainer. What I’ve seen is that people get the bug and rush into it. “This is the sport for me, now I have time, money, and a friend who has played for years. “ They get frustrated when they get their first injury. They associate it with tennis. They simply weren’t well prepared. Like many sports, tennis requires strength, flexibility and endurance.
Anne: So how can a beginner minimize and manage any injuries?
Ed: Good equipment makes a difference. Get good shoes and use fresh strings that absorb the shock. A good racquet is important. Any good store will give you loaners to try out. Don’t walk into that first lesson just off the street. Do some strength and flexibility work in the weeks before you start.
The United States Tennis Association has great information on training, fitness and most everything related to tennis: usta.com
Most people don’t prepare themselves-- but those that do have fun! And that’s what it is all about! I ask every person I coach at the end of each session, “Did you have fun?”
Anne: How do I find people to play with?
Ed: The best part of tennis is that it is so social. You meet many people from all walks of life. A good pro knows how to help you find players at your level to play with. Parks and Rec have leagues. Last night the courts near my house were packed, there are leagues everywhere. The web makes it so easy. For example, I have an app. that shows all the tennis courts by zip code.
Anne: What if I can’t find people to play with all the time?
Ed: With tennis, you can even play by yourself!
I have a book in the works I’m calling “Ten Minute Tennis.” With just you and a wall, you can cover every shot in tennis.
Anne: How do I get better?
Ed: Eventually you’ll develop a group of friends and you’ll want to “play up” with someone a little better than you to get better. There are also creative ways to level the field with players of varying ability. For example, the better player spots some points, to make the game competitive.
Also try doubles tennis. It is much less demanding than singles. Match up sides so those with higher rankings play with teammates with lower rankings so everyone can play. It’s a lot of fun that way.
When I finished school, I played at one of the courts where the top players in my area were hanging out. They were good! They were former Division I players and they got to know each other in Open tournaments. I said to myself, I’m not as good as them and wont be able to break into their practice group - they were hammering the ball! But I got to know one of them. He said, “Want to go get some food?” He said he’d hit with me one on one and “I’ll see if you can hang with me, because the other guys are kind of picky.” We had a good session and he said it’s all about helping each other. The upshot is that I played with them for 4-5 years and I got a multi-state ranking as mentioned above. I can’t tell you how much it helped. We did all kinds of drills for hours. The best part is that they were down to earth, hard working guys who were passionate about tennis. It was just great.
So find a group of friends you enjoy. It’s mainly finding a good personality fit that makes it so much fun.
Also, just go play. Forget about work, go out to eat after, and just have fun! Knowing a friend is going to meet you at the court is a great motivator to getting there! You can’t let them down. It is rare that you feel 100% when you hit, everyone has injuries they watch or are having a bad day, but once you get there, the fun starts.
Tennis is for everyone. At its core it is a simple, fun, and social game.
Ed says “My joy and passion is getting people into the game. It’s a sport for a lifetime. I look forward to hitting balls with my grandkids.” My tagline for coaching is “Make it Fun!”