Tennis, anyone?

“I was playing good tennis up until 100.” ­– Norman Lloyd, actor, producer, director

Shoveling snow is a repetitive movement of bend, twist, throw – bend, twist, and throw, with every scoop of snow being a different motion. After shoveling out, people will remark, ‘I used muscles I didn’t even know I had.’ Unfortunately, shoveling snow isn’t always available, so people looking for a lifelong activity that provides a full-body workout, mental stimulation, and can be done with friends and family, might consider tennis.

The ancestral root of tennis is the sport of ‘game of palm’, using the hand to propel a ball over a barrier to an opponent, first played by French monks in the 11th century. The essence of the sport, described by player Gil Kressmann, is the same for modern tennis, “Each stroke is a function of your position and that of your opponent, there are almost an infinite amount of solutions and you have to choose the best in a matter of seconds.” To the late comic Robin Williams, playing tennis is like “chess at 90 mph.”

Watching tennis on television is deceptive. A ball, color mandated as ‘optic’ yellow for visibility, is exchanged between opponents over a net until missed. The service stroke at the professional level can reach a speed of 130 mph, taking the blink of an eye to travel the 78-foot court. Returns are an array of forehand, backhand, overhead, often spinning, from a dead drop, to a velocity of 90 mph. A good player will, in the words of Muhammad Ali, “Float like a butterfly sting like a bee, your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.”

Tempo of a tennis game is established by the skill level of the players, making it a sport that can be played throughout life. It is a tortoise and hare type of game, speed and strength can be overcome by strategy and persistence. The variety of movement improves agility and coordination while stimulating cognitive functions and improving concentration.

People interested in activities to live longer with a higher quality of life might find the Copenhagen City Heart Study interesting. Observational research on a sample of 8,577 people over 25 years concluded that those that played tennis lived 9.7 years longer, badminton second at 6.2, with jogging and calisthenics being 3.0, in comparison to a sedentary group. The conjecture for differences, is that the competition and social interaction of the racquet sports is more stimulating.

“My coffee mug motto is ‘I Love Tennis.’ I’ve enjoyed the game for over 60 years,” a member of the senior men’s tennis group, the ‘Geezers,’ remarked.

It’s a group that has been playing year-round for over twenty years, initially in a warehouse during the winter months. Overcoming health issues such as pacemakers, artificial joints, and other issues of aging, they enjoy tennis and friendship. It’s one of several groups, informal or organized, that enjoy tennis.

The tennis playing community in Alpena might be dubbed, ‘The Few, the Proud.’ Since 1998, when the Alpena Tennis Association was formed, efforts have been made to expand participation through junior and senior programs. The Alpena Events Complex (APlex), opened in 2007, made year-round quality play a reality.

In the summer, tennis is very affordable — it’s free! Courts are available at Bay View, McRae, Thunder Bay Junior High, and Alpena High School.

Tennis, anyone?

“We don’t play tennis or music for any other reason than to have fun and raise consciousness.” — Carlos Santana, musician

Tom Brindley grew up in Iowa, and studied journalism and accounting. He is a retired controller from Alpena Community College and has been active in local nonprofit organizations. He can be reached at bindletom@hotmail.com. Read him here the first and fifth Thursday of each month.