5 Tips for Continuing to Play Tennis as You Age
The older I get, the more I realize that age is no reason to stop playing sports. In fact, as the “golden years” sneak up on us (really, what are they anyway?) and the demands of family and employment lessen, we may have more time to participate.
Needless to say, illness and ongoing health issues may not allow us to do everything we wish, but that can be a factor at any point in life. Allow me the liberty of assuming you do not have any serious limitations and you do have an interest in the game of tennis.
There appears to be some evidence of the game being played as far back in time as ancient Greece. However, records usually refer to the game of “Paume” (Palm) played in 12th Century France as the beginning of tennis as we know it today.
Tennis smashed onto the worldwide athletic scene soon after its modern rules and equipment were introduced in 19-century England. Exciting, competitive and uniquely accessible to people of all ages and talent levels, tennis continues to enjoy popularity, both as a recreational activity and a spectator sport. Now it is possible to follow the tour practically all year.
Tennis is fun. You laugh a lot more playing tennis than you do playing golf, that’s for certain! Most of the people I play with are over 50, and some are in their mid-80s.
There is no shortage of competitive spirit and those who may not be able to scramble like they used to, can still play a good game of doubles. Several of the seniors have just taken up the game and enjoy it tremendously.
I’m willing to bet there are tennis clubs in your neighborhood, both private and public, and groups of people of all ages that would welcome you. Playing tennis is a fabulous way to socialize, too.
Like anything else, lessons are essential to get started and there will always be groups to join at your level. Once you learn the game, your enjoyment watching the action on television or attending tournaments will be enhanced.
Tom Sweitzer, a USPTA Master Tennis Professional at Blue Ridge Country Club, offers up helpful tips for seniors to improve their game and have fun while doing it. (You can also read about 91-year-old William Lentz.)
Tip # 1
You want to have effortless strokes, which allows for maximum control and power with minimal effort. Young guys can stand on their head when they hit the ball, but bad mechanics really show up when you get older. Better strokes lead to better play – and for seniors, fewer injuries.
Tip # 2
Seniors should play within their abilities. A typical injury occurs when you are hitting back and forth, and a player will run after a drop shot like they are 20-years old. If you are 50, you have to, at some point, realize you don’t play like you are 20. Use realistic judgment and know your limitations.
Tip # 3
Smart senior players realize the body needs to recharge and will play every other day instead of every day. Even the top five players in the world know the body needs to recharge, so you have to know your own time table for recovery.
Tip # 4
The sooner a senior player starts playing on a clay court, the better it will be on their joints. Not only from a physical standpoint in extending a career, but it also teaches you to control the ball better. Playing on a clay court also cuts down the heat index.
A hard court will burn the skin right off when you touch it, a clay court is dirt and is watered regularly. The biggest growth in USTA (United States Tennis Association) tennis is with seniors and super seniors and most of them are playing on clay courts.
Tip # 5
We’ve had some pretty hot days, so it’s important to play in the morning or in the evening. Those are the best times to play for seniors because you can play longer and don’t get drained. We schedule USTA team matches at 6 p.m. because you aren’t getting the direct sun and the temperature decreases as much as 10 degrees.
No matter when you play, you want to take fluids as you lose fluids. Take in fluids a little at a time, every two games during a changeover.
It’s never too late to add a new activity to your life or pick up one you may have dropped some time ago. Just do it!
Do you play tennis or some other sport? What tips have you adapted to the game as you have aged? Please share in the comments below.