Tennis, Anyone?

The grass courts and crisp white attire at Wimbledon have a way of inspiring everyone from aces to those who have never picked up a racquet to get out for a game of tennis. A sport that offers valuable physical benefits plus a lively social scene, tennis is a lifelong activity that can be picked up at any age. And while there’s no guarantee you’ll be the next Federer, with the right instruction and approach, anyone can have fun while engaging in a little friendly competition on the court.

For those who are considering taking up tennis or are encouraging little ones to pick up the sport, we asked Hank Harris of Alexandria, Virginia-based Hank Harris Tennis Academy for some pointers. Prior to founding his eponymous academy, Harris served as coach for the UVA Women’s Tennis Team and coached Pam Shriver to achieve #1 doubles and #3 singles rankings, and now enjoys teaching juniors and adults the ins and outs of the game. From why the sport is a good fit to establishing fundamentals, here are his recommendations:

Why tennis? In addition to being a great form of exercise, a good singles match involves skill, strategy, and mental fortitude. Doubles is an excellent combination of wit, working together with a partner, and a mixture of creative shot-making. Plus, tennis is an activity that you and the entire family can play for a lifetime.

Engage an expert. The right tennis coach can make all the difference. He or she should be a good instructor (or be able to find you one) and can advise you on everything you need, from finding the proper equipment to what your instruction and practice strategy should be.

Starting young. For kids, starting early is an advantage, but not imperative. As a parent, a good first step is feeding some balls to your child to see how their hand-eye coordination is, and to see if they enjoy the activity. You want this to be a positive experience, so don’t force too much on them! If and when it’s time for lessons, age-appropriate instruction is available, and shouldn’t be too long for kids between five to seven years old. As the child gets older and more into the sport, the more time on the court, the better. Once they are “match ready,” USTA team play, tennis club matches, tournaments, and school teams are among the activities available. That’s where the fun continues!

Starting later. Adults need to make a commitment once or twice a week to get into the sport. A combination of private lessons, group clinics, and a hitting partner or two will be a productive process. Make tennis a part of your social schedule, and have fun! It’s nice to have a competitive outlet as an adult. As your skill level improves, USTA leagues and mixers are just a few of the ways to get further involved in the sport; ask your coach or tennis pro for guidance on these options.

Keep it simple. When learning to play tennis, you need to establish fundamentals and work on the basics first. Fluid movement and using your core to play instead of your arms will lead to an injury-free way of playing, which is important for all ages.

Practice makes perfect. Private instruction is the ultimate way to improve your tennis game, but it can be costly and needs to be combined with other tennis activities. The right tennis camp that involves a lot of time on the court is a great way to make a big improvement, as well as clinics and getting practice time on your own with a friend or two. Using a backboard or wall to practice against is also a great learning tool.

TSG Tip 164 provided by Hank Harris of Hank Harris Tennis Academy in Alexandria, Virginia.