These blogs are my personal, idiosyncratic observations about aging, training, and sports competition.
To access previous blogs, click "Read Other Blogs" at the bottom of this page.
Paddling in Torino -- World Masters Games 2013
Winning - May 11, 2012
Can Too Much Exercise Be Bad for Your Heart - March 11, 2011
The 60 Minute Crawl - January 30, 2011
Playing Tennis Again - October 6, 2010
Why Compete? (2) - June 15, 2010
LOST - May 24, 2010
Happy Birthday to Me - May 18, 2010
Why Compete?(1) - April 30, 2010
Val Barnwell - April 14, 2010
Spring Training Day - April 4, 2010
Becoming Bionic - March 24, 2010
The Divided Kingdom - February 4, 2010
October 6, 2010
Several years ago my wife and I moved from the Boston area to western Massachusetts. I had been racing kayaks, doing sprint triathlons, and bumbling around orienteering courses. On a whim, I decided that I should try to nurture what little hand-eye coordination I still had and take up tennis again. I had played as a kid and continued through high school, but played infrequently thereafter. When I did play, it was because my father was always keen to play.
How to take up a new sport, or a sport that I had not played seriously for many years? First, I took a lesson from a Pro who was familiar with the area. He not only helped me on the road back by trying to correct the flaws in my swing and sharpening my court sense, but he offered many suggestions on how I could insinuate myself into the local tennis scene. He suggested opponents I could call for a game and gave me his take on the tennis facilities in the area. Next, I became a member of the U.S. Tennis Association, obtained a National Tennis Rating, and joined a local USTA League Team. Eventually I found my way on to a Super-Seniors team as well. Although I play mostly doubles, I am always happy to play singles matches because they call for much greater fitness than doubles.
Alone, I spent some time hitting against a ball machine or against a wall to groove my swing. Many hours were spent practicing my serve. I hate to double fault. But unlike endurance sports, I found it much more difficult to practice by myself.
Slowly my tennis improved, although the sport provides a special kind of frustration. In sports like kayak racing and triathlons it's easier to set personal goals that have little to do with your opponents. For example, I compare my time over a given distance with my time over the same distance last weekend, or gauge my performance against my practice times. But the mind games in tennis force you to focus on your opponent and your ability to make your body do things it should be able to do. And do them consistently. When I double fault or send a backhand into the net, I know I didn't concentrate, didn't pay attention. For mid-level players like me -- my NTPR rating is now 3.5 -- our fatal flaw is inconsistency. It is building up my brain-muscle, strengthening my concentration that is my work ahead. This is something that happens only in matches, and not hitting against a wall.
Looking back, taking up tennis again seems quite straightforward and easy. There were a few times when I wondered if I shouldn't just stick to endurance sports, but now I do some of both and am quite happy with the arrangement. Does it make sense to take up a new sport without dropping another? Not for me. Long ago I resigned myself to spreading myself too thin.