If you had asked me that question at any point during the past 10 years, I would have said running without giving it a second thought. Running is a convenient, healthy, goal-oriented activity. It’s also pretty popular these days. Like many of my Facebook friends, I enjoyed posting about my next race and took pride in tackling greater distances and finishing in faster times. My collection of race t-shirts was on pace to outgrow my closet.
This spring, however, I started thinking that maybe I had been pounding the pavement for long enough. It’s not that I wanted to give up running completely. I just wondered what else might be out there for people like me – a fitness enthusiast looking for a new challenge.
That’s when I decided to take “Tennis in No Time,” Midtown Athletic Club’s three-week beginner tennis program. All you have to do is show up, and your coach will give you a racquet and teach you to play tennis in six lessons. It turns out it really was that simple, but more importantly, it was a lot of fun.
It didn’t take long to figure out that Tennis in No Time isn’t just a standard tennis class. With a small class size (just 5 players in my case), we each received a good amount of individual instruction from our coach, Jim, and we left each day feeling more confident in our skills and knowledge of the game.
From grips, shots and footwork, to singles and doubles rules and scoring and strategy, we quickly learned what we needed to do to win points on the court.
We used foam balls on a half court the first week, and eventually progressed to higher compression balls on a regulation-size court throughout the program. This is another way Tennis in No Time (TNT) helped us build on-court skills because this innovative approach allowed us to slow down the game without slowing the pace of the class. As someone looking for a new way to stay fit, I was psyched that standing around and waiting in line were not part of the lesson plan.
Each class concluded with a wrap-up session in the Paddle Tennis Hut, where another coach would review the concepts we practiced that day. We also heard some great tips on how to practice. My favorite piece of advice came from coach Mike, who taught us how to use the ball machines in the club’s complimentary practice lanes. He reminded us to “always have an intention for your practice,” and to “always practice at your highest level of success,” which were principles that were applied consistently throughout the program.
All that said, the real highlights of Tennis in No Time were the parties, where we were introduced to the social side of the sport. The first party was a Cardio Tennis theme, which included high-energy cardio & tennis drills accompanied by heart-pumping music from a DJ. With endorphins flying around the courts as fast as the tennis balls we were hitting, everyone was wearing a smile.
The second party was a doubles mixer, featuring warm-up drills followed by fast-paced tennis with coach instruction (and raffle prizes!). Both parties concluded with food and drinks, and more time to hang out with our new tennis friends.
So the question is, can a runner really become a tennis player in three weeks? In Tennis in No Time, the answer is yes, in less than three weeks. We were having fun playing tennis on the first day and every day throughout the program. And with the added benefit of tennis being a great workout (I’m even starting to develop my own set of “Michelle Obama arms”), the result is that I’m developing quite a crush on the sport…a crush that might just become a lifelong love affair.
Want to know more about TNT? Head here for another Tennis in No Time testimonial.
Ready to sign up? Click here for more information about TNT.
Full disclosure: I had no intention of registering my four-year-old twins for Midtown’s new Tennis Explorers program.
I love them to pieces, but these two are “spirited” on their best days and the definition of chaos and mayhem on their worst. And, like many preschoolers, they are very active, very boisterous, and have very short attention spans.
Twinsanity and tennis? Like oil and water, I thought.
Boy, was I wrong.
We’re nearing the completion of our first 10-week, parent-and-child session, and my twins not only love the game, but have also mastered skills I never thought they would stand still enough to learn.
A Different Approach
Tennis Explorers is unique because the emphasis is on fun, movement, and cultural awareness. Midtown created the program with childhood development professionals, so literacy, counting, and social skills are also incorporated with each lesson.
The kids spend the first 5 minutes of each lesson in a “circle time” atmosphere on-court, listening to their tennis coach read them a story about a different country from their Tennis Explorers book. They learn how to say, “Hello” in the language of that country, which was a huge hit with my kids. They’re stilling saying, “Jambo” to people they meet, three weeks after learning about Kenya.
Fun is the Focus
Rest assured that your 3-year-old won’t be whacking around a regulation tennis ball with abandon. Tennis Explorers uses large, easy-to-hit foam balls, and in class, they aren’t even called tennis balls. They are “turtles” for one drill (kids practice hand-eye coordination skills by using the strings of their racquet-the turtle’s “shell”-to stop a rolling ball-the turtle’s body) and a “kangaroo” that needs to find its way into its mother’s “pouch” (a cone) for another.
Outside of the story, the class is kept in constant motion, which is a perfect format for active preschoolers. They work on balance, coordination, both large and small motor skills, and the proper way to hold and swing the most adorable, age-appropriate racquet you’ve ever seen. The racquet was designed especially for Midtown by Wilson and each Tennis Explorer receives one, along with these backpacks.
My kids’ tennis coach flawlessly integrates parent participation with each lesson, as we’re asked to toss the kids balls to hit, or even participate in a balance drill along with our children. Parents aren’t usually able to participate in softball, or soccer, or hockey right alongside their kids, so my husband and I are happy to have the opportunity to join our twins on-court in their first foray into sports.
It took just a single class to hook my kids on the game. By the end of the first lesson, my sometimes surly son was jumping up and down shouting, “I LOVE tennis!” He was even more excited to get his first sticker in his “Passport,” the small green book where kids collect a sticker upon completion of each lesson.
All four of us are looking forward to the next session, which begins next week.
While there are child-only classes on the schedule, where kids work with a pro sans parents as they do in other levels of tennis, I would encourage you to take the class with your kids, or have another caregiver take it with them, at least for the first time around. First, the class was designed this way, but more importantly it offers you a guaranteed 45 minutes of uninterrupted time each week to spend with your preschooler.
And with the fast pace of most of our lives, that kind of time is invaluable.
Has your child taken our inaugural session of Tennis Explorers? Please share what you thought of the program in our Comments section.