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.
In 2010, I took on the challenge of TNT, our patented Tennis in No Time program, which promises to turn both members and non-members into tennis players in a mere 3 weeks. Our Tennis Director encouraged me, even though I doubted I could become a player in my 40s.
I was wrong. I fell in love with the game and to this day look forward to playing.
TNT runs annually at our club, and is offered both this month, and in May. It begins with an orientation, which was helpful in preparing me for what to expect. I did not own a racquet at the time and did not want to buy one. Turns out, this wasn’t an issue. Midtown offers free loaner racquets during TNT.
My second concern was signing up for a class that did not fit into my work and personal schedule. Conveniently, TNT is only six, 1 ½ hour classes offered six days per week at all times of the day, from morning until evening. Two Friday night cardio tennis parties are an added bonus, if you are up for a great time. Even better, you can jump into any of the other classes as a make-up if you miss your scheduled one.
The Midtown tennis pros are full of energy, entertaining, and tons of fun. Classes include participants from a variety of skill levels, from those who have never held a racquet to those who just need a refresher course in tennis. The pros focus on game rules, skills, drills, and matches. More than three-quarters of the participants who took the class with me are now playing on a regular basis. At least half of them are playing in leagues at Midtown, have gained lots of new friends, and are in better shape than they were before TNT.
If you are looking for something new to try this Spring, I highly recommend TNT. It is only $65 for members and $115 for non-members. If it could turn me into a tennis player, I know it can turn you into one too. You can find registration forms online or at the front desk. If you want to learn tennis in a non-competitive environment while laughing and having a great time, TNT is for you!
Our tennis pros are seen on court so often that you might think that all they do is eat, sleep, and breathe tennis. But, there is much more behind the racquets.
All of our pros are Certified Professionals, but each has a diverse background and has taken a different path to Midtown Tennis. Our new “Courtside” blog series will introduce you to our Pros on a personal level.
First up is Sean Henegan, Weston’s Junior Tennis Development Coordinator. Sean has been coaching tennis for about nine years.
Born and raised in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Sean grew up playing sports. At 16 years old his family relocated to Ohio where he attended high school. He graduated from Wright University with a BS in Psychology.
After having played tennis in high school and college, the sport evolved into a potential career option as his coaches told him how well he played. Shortly after graduating, he moved to Florida where he now resides with his brother. A natural born athlete, Sean enjoys playing rugby, cricket, golf, and basketball. Sean is also a big college football fan.
When he is not at work, he relaxes by playing beach volleyball and body surfing. Sean enjoys traveling and learning from other cultures, and is a true athlete who maintains a disciplined, regular fitness routine to maintain good health. He thinks it is important to stay active and hopes to encourage our younger population to do the same.
Sean’s favorite part of his job as a Junior Tennis Development Coordinator is to watch kids not only improve in their tennis but also to watch them mature into young adults.
Carole:What do you think draws people to the game of tennis?
Sean: There is always something new to learn. It is challenging; it’s always testing your body and your mind, and it’s a great social sport.
Carole: Tennis is a popular sport, but some people are hesitant to give it a try. Why do you think this is?
Sean:I think the main reason is that it is more challenging than it looks. Perhaps the individual has not been successful in hitting the ball or he/she could have had a bad experience with tennis as a child. More specifically, the coach may not have ben energetic or fun. This is certainly not the case at Midtown!
Carole: What would you say to these people to encourage them to try it (or try it again)?
Sean: It’s a great sport that you can play for your lifetime, and it will keep you physically and mentally healthy. Tennis is great to socialize with friends, significant others, and with your children. Here in Florida, you can play tennis in the fresh air, year round.
Carole: What are some tips that players can use to improve their tennis game?
Sean: I would suggest the following:
1.) Ensure your feet are in the correct position.
2.) Move your left arm at least parallel to the baseline when hitting the ball to ensure a good shoulder turn.
3.) Keep the ball deep in play. This will push the opponent back, most likely resulting in a weaker return.
Carole: Do you prefer to play singles or doubles?
Sean: As a competitive athlete, I definitely enjoy singles more because if I play badly or lose a match, I can’t blame anyone else but myself. I like the feeling of being independent when I’m on the court as a single player. I enjoy doubles when playing with friends, or if I am playing strictly for the social experience with friends and family.
As the Junior Developmental Coordinator at Midtown, Sean’s focus is on 10 and Under Tennis. He also works with our teen players who want to improve their skills. Have questions for Sean, or want to find out how your kids can get involved with tennis at Midtown? Give Sean a call at 954.384.2582 or leave your questions/comments here.
When your workday starts on a Monday morning with a one-hour session of Cardio Tennis lead by Adult Tennis Programs Director, Ismael Rosales, you know it’s going to be a great day.
A group of members warmly welcomed me as I grabbed my racquet and jumped in line. Ismael tossed balls rapidly while we ran in configurations, jumped ladders, and weaved through cones.
Coach Ismael gave tips as we worked on the volley, backhand, and forehand. He was encouraging, positive, and fun. Afterwards, I asked some of the participants what they like about Cardio Tennis.
Juan Ramirez and Mauricio Ortiz take class so they have a good excuse to be late for work. All kidding aside, they work for a cardiology company and know the benefits of cardio workouts.
They also said that Ismael is a great instructor and class is a good way to be fit, meet people, relax, and manage stress.
I had a chance to sit down with Ismael and ask him a few questions too. Ismael is in charge of the Adult Programs at Midtown, including leagues, teams, cardio tennis, drills, round robins, and USTA Tournaments, including the recent Men’s National 35’s Tournament.
Ismael’s life is surrounded by tennis. His wife is a teaching pro and his two children play at least twice a week.
“People like tennis because it is fun, social, a great way to meet people and great for fitness,” says Ismael.
How long have you been involved in tennis?
Ismael: In 1987, I started teaching as the Director of National Tennis School in Caracas , Venezuela. I have coached tennis for 24 years.
What made you want to become a Tennis Pro/Coach?
Ismael: I love the game. I received an offer from the Venezuelan Tennis Federation to direct the school and national teams. And I liked the idea. That is how I started.
If you could give just one piece of advice to help someone hit the ball better, what would it be?
What is your favorite part of your job?
Ismael: The connection I can establish with new people and the opportunity to help them get better in the sport.
What’s a cost-effective way for members to improve their tennis game?
Ismael: Group lessons are economical (TNT and Tennis Schools for example) as well as practicing with the ball machine for repetition and practice, specifically if you struggle with keeping the ball in play.
What is your favorite tennis to play and why?
Ismael: I really enjoy doubles. I’m playing in a doubles Pro League at Midtown with more than 15 players, and I love it!
Do you have a question for our Adult Tennis Programs Director? Let’s hear it!
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