For too long a time, events in my life have conspired to prevent me from playing tennis. But I never gave up hope that circumstances and my health would permit me to return to a sport I love.
So strong was my conviction that I’d play again that one of my first purchases when I arrived in France was a blue tennis bag and four cans of balls.
Imagine my delight when I recently discovered that the Castelnauvien Tennis Club was less than a mile away from my home, easily within walking distance. But of course, finding a place to play was only half the battle. I also needed to be healthy enough to engage in a demanding sport. Recently, I decided I was ready to give it a go!
Screwing up my courage, I asked la Professeure, my French tutor, to call the Castelnauvien Tennis Club to help me make arrangements to play. As a result of her call, the club manager invited me to join a seniors foursome that played every Monday and Thursday morning. Perhaps I could rotate in if one of them needed a break.
On the following Wednesday, I decided to walk over to the club and hit a few balls against a practice wall, hoping that the club had one that I could use. But first, I had to find the entrance, a task that was complicated by building construction.
Eventually, I found a way into the club and sighted a single practice court that was unlocked and available. I hit dozens of balls and was delighted that (1) I could still hit the ball, and (2) it occasionally traveled in the intended direction. I was ready for my big day!
My First Foursome
The next day, I joined three seniors on the court, Allen and Yves, both 80, and Celeste, 86. They welcomed me graciously and warmly, especially since they only had three players and my presence would make a fourth. For my part, I was delighted I didn’t have to sit and wait to work my way in through the rotation.
During the match, I missed some shots but made some as well. And even though I hadn’t practiced my serve, I managed to win my serve games. By the time we finished, I was able to tell score in French!
La Professeure, who had come with me, helped with the exchange of phone numbers at the conclusion of the match so we could stay in touch.
In assessing my play, I could tell that my absence from the sport had made my footwork slow and that I’d missed too many easy shots. I decided I needed a tune-up.
Just like a Car, I Needed a Tune-Up
When I arrived at the tennis club that morning, I had watched a tennis instructor giving lessons on another court. I liked his style and approach. Consequently, when we finished our foursome, I went over and introduced myself to Charles, or as la Professeure and I nicknamed him, Charmin’ Charles. I made a date with him for a private lesson the following week.
After my one-hour lesson, I can tell you that Charles, besides being charming, is an excellent instructor. He quickly picked out the weakest part of my game, gave me a correction, and focused my attention on changing my forehand form to achieve more consistency.
The hour with Charles went by quickly, and as you might be able to tell, I can’t wait for another opportunity to play.
Does Playing Keep Us Young?
Will tennis keep me young? Who knows? But it may enable me to live longer. Among the top three sports for increasing longevity, tennis ranks number one.
In a study of nearly 8,600 people in Copenhagen over 25 years, researchers found tennis produced the highest rate of longevity: tennis players lived 9.7 years longer, followed by badminton players (6.2 years) and soccer players (4.7 years).
Researchers also tell us that people who are optimistic and upbeat live longer. Given that tennis makes me happy, I could live to 100. And it may take me that long to learn how to play well!