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Tennis a time-tested pastime

In the Community, Making a Difference

Courtesy Photo Pictured, from left to right, are Mark Milstein, Henry Zajac, Roger Schnell, Don Lewandowski, Tom Brindley, John McGill, Lance Heitz. Dennis Artley, John Feys.

“Advantage, service, fault, break, love — the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence because every match is a life in miniature.” — Andre Agassi, tennis player.

ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” introductory words, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” characterize society’s obsession with sports ­– that you have to be in the game to win is an attitude that impacts our lives. Participation in sports helps to define our strengths, and weaknesses in relation to others. Little league baseball, soccer, and flag football are most people’s first contact with sports, but skill level and coming of age soon limits participation in team sports. Tennis can be played throughout a lifetime, in spite of physical change.

Arthur Stanwood Pier, who describes himself as being able to play a fair game of tennis, writes in an August 1903 article in The Atlantic, “tennis is entitled to the place of supremacy among games.” To him it is pure competition, you and your opponent matching physical agility and wits, movement and strokes guided by instinctive reaction. In tennis a loss can be taken with dignity by scoring points in defiance — “the old dog dies, but never surrenders.” A graduate of St. Paul’s School in Concord, Massachusetts, and Harvard, he observed the early development of collegiate and professional sports.

“No tennis player can enjoy the happy camaraderie that tennis offers till he learns his place.” — John Doe Richards tennis instructor, Tiddling Tennis Club.

The character in Arthur Hoppe’s satire, “The Tiddling Tennis Theorem,” is known as the Professor. He emphasizes to young tennis players that success is in your head as well as your hand; you will always think of yourself as a better player than you really are. There will come a time that you expect to be matched against better players, and if you do not play well, the excuse will be that you are off your game. Admission of personal failure is as tough in sport as it is in life.

A local group is a testament to the game of tennis and longevity. They call themselves the Geezers, which, in Britain, is slang for a gentleman that watches scrappy sports with pint in hand. Retired from a variety of professions, Geezers have come and gone. A few have been with the group since it formed in the 1990s, playing two days a week, all seasons of the year. In the early days, they had to struggle to find a venue, and have played in a storage facility and the federal building.

It sometimes takes a while for a community to realize they have something special, and for Alpena, that is the game of tennis. With the Alpena Events Complex (APlex), courts are available year-round. Summer is a suitable time to start. Aaron Pokorzynki, director of courts at the APlex, will be offering instruction at Bay View Park. The invitation should be more inclusive than “tennis, anyone.” Help us make it “tennis, everyone.”

“For us adults, now think about how you feel when you step onto the tennis court. You are filled with optimism, purpose, and focus — to compete, have fun, make friends and exercise. To me, the tennis court is the most unbiased place in the world. Not only is tennis a sport for life, but it is a metaphor for how life should be.” — Tom Chen, United States Tennis Association Foundation.

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