For the Love of Tennis — Make Exercise Social

Finding Life’s Secret Sauce, I devote a chapter to “making exercise social.” I truly believe that having partners in crime is one sure way to help you stick with a schedule. Whether it’s finding a running buddy or playing golf with the guys or gals, being active with others makes it more fun!

Tennis is one such social sport that I find particularly enjoyable. It’s a great way to get exercise, meet new friends and stir up the competitive juices, if you are as lucky enough (or cursed) to have a system filled with these like I am.

How to Get Involved

I’ve recently laid witness to several friends – across a range of athleticism – who have just started playing tennis and are enjoying it immensely. They have asked me how to join a team, so I thought I’d share what I know.

The best way to get started, in my opinion, is to sign up with the USTA (United States Tennis Association). If you visit their main website, click the tennis link tab. From here, you can find out more about USTA Leagues, Flex Leagues, Tournaments and Junior Team Tennis. I personally play in USTA Leagues as much as the weather allows, and there are a variety of options during the spring, summer and fall.

No Experience Needed

You may think you need a lot of experience to get started, and this is not true. I decided to play tennis for the first time when I was 25 and living in Charlotte. I picked up a tennis racket and went to the USTA office to be rated. From there, I joined a league and had a blast. My friend in California just started playing for the first time at age 41.

How it Works

At least in Boise, you self-rate your skill level. The ratings start at 2.5 and build in increments of .5 on up to the pros. If you have never played in a formal tennis league or on a team and have to self-rate, I’d suggest starting out at 2.5. Even if you get bumped up to a higher level, you’ll enjoy a few wins under your belt to boost your confidence. Some markets, like Charlotte years ago, may require that you get rated by a USTA staff person. This is easy to do as well – just place a phone call and set an appointment. Also, if you don’t know the rules, don’t worry about it. I’m still learning them myself!

What to Play

Some of the leagues are doubles play only. Others have opportunities for singles and doubles. If you’re just getting started, you may not know what your preference is. And again, my suggestion is to try both. I started out playing singles then picked up doubles twenty years later. Having experience at both is very valuable in making you a better player. Not to mention, many USTA leagues are only doubles play – some mixed, some women’s/men’s. So if you want to play on teams, then you’ll probably need to learn doubles at some point anyway.

Other opportunities

If the USTA isn’t your thing, there are other opportunities to play with city and club teams. In fact, Boise has a Swim and Racquet Club which allows non-members to participate in leagues and tournaments. Your market may have opportunities like this, too, so call around for more information. Another way to get more experience is to play in local tournaments. You can find out about these via the USTA web site, your local tennis association and local clubs.

Melinda Hinson