Nothing But Love for Tennis
In late April of 2020, my husband came home from work to find me folding laundry and pouting. Dr Fauci’s daily update was competing with my three daughters playing Legos as background noise, and I was furiously sorting through a three-foot-tall pile of laundry. He sat down across from me and asked the question every husband just loves to begin a conversation with:
“I miss tennis.” I tossed him two pairs of socks. “I miss my teammates. I love you dearly, and I love our children, but I really need to go hit something.”
“Well, is it played outside?” he asked, as he gingerly took away a pair of pants I was aggressively wadding into a ball.
“Of course, it is.” I rolled my eyes.
“Will you be six feet away from everyone?”
“Sure. In singles or doubles, you’re always that far away from each other.”
“Then go play.” He sat back in the chair, crossed his arms, and grinned. “Sounds like you’re meeting the CDC guidelines. There’s no reason you shouldn’t — wait, where are you going?!?”
“To regrip my racquet! And I need to find my court shoes!” I yelled over my shoulder, leaving a wake of socks floating midair.
A long war with post-partum depression taught me that exercise is one of my greatest weapons. After the birth of my third daughter, my husband asked me to tag along with him to the Saturday morning drills at the local country club. Next thing I know, I was talked into joining a USTA adult recreational team. Did I win any of my games? Nope! But it was the first time since becoming at stay-at-home-mom that my friendships didn’t revolve around my husband or children. My teammates and I sweated, laughed, and cheered each other on, and I left the court after each match smiling from the endorphins and inside jokes.
Like many extroverts, I was hit hard with the quarantining and isolation the pandemic required. Once we got a grip on the basics of COVID (and the CDC deemed tennis a safe activity), I headed back out to the courts. Drill groups were smaller, we were armed with bottles of water and hand sanitizer, but we exercised, socialized, and remained safe. Tennis became my mental health lifeline – a few hours each week that I could work through the stress of life with small children, a husband working on the front lines, and a constant barrage of bad news.
I wasn’t the only one that used a racquet to smack away the COVID blues. According to the Physical Activity Council’s Participation report, tennis involvement jumped 22% and beginner racquet sales jumped 40%. There was also a significant increase of returning players who dusted off their court shoes and walked back onto the court after an extended absence.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) hopes to the tennis bug that bit these new players continues to give them an itch, even as restrictions are lifted and life returns to normal. Leanne Summers is the Local League Coordinator for Southwest Mississippi. “We had a huge increase in participation with our adult leagues in 2020. People recognized tennis as a stress reliever, and it allowed them to be social while still maintaining a safe distance from each other.”
“Tennis doesn’t have an age limit,” she says. “And it can also be as competitive (or as social) as you’d like it to be. It may be something you do for fun on Saturday mornings to burn off the stress of the week, or you may find that you enjoy developing friendships on a competitive team.”
The USTA is the best resource for finding beginner tennis programs, but most city recreational departments have information on tennis lessons, too. Or, you may be like me, and finally notice the large green concrete slabs that surround your club pool. Private lessons or beginner group classes are a great way to start, or if you’ve played in the past, look for open drills in your area.
I don’t need to wear a mask anymore, but I continue to spend as much time as I can on the tennis court. If I’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s this: stock up on toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and tennis balls.
Sarah Lowman Reynolds is a freelance writer living in Brookhaven, MS. Visit her blog www.SouthernFriedLove.org to get to know her better.