Over the past six weeks I have participated in the Oakland Tennis Center’s Tennis Apprentice Program. This program gave me the opportunity to learn the game of tennis, from the techniques to the rules. The program was taught by Mark Gardiner, Newberry College’s head tennis coach, and Beth Williamson, assistant coach.
As I stated in a previous column, this was a pretty in depth program, learning how to position your hands on the racket, like Beth would say, “like holding a hammer,” and even how to stand. I’d have to say the best component of tennis we learned was serving, while I’m still just okay at serving, especially when I first start out, it became really easy to pick up and hit the ball into the proper box.
Beth and Mark did an excellent job teaching the program, they not only made it fun, but they taught on your level. As many know, I’m not very coordinated, break for those who know me to laugh, but Beth and Mark were patient, kind and entertaining. Despite the fact that Beth kept saying, “get out your hard hats” when I would serve, but not once would I hit her with a ball, unlike others. Or that fact they decided during the second to last class that I should be the “target” and I’m still holding a grudge on that one.
This program also had a side benefit, when you start to play you really get moving. Tennis is not just standing in the same spot waiting for a ball to come at you. You have to watch, and at times run to the ball to try and earn your point. You will also use a lot of muscles in your arms, even ones you didn’t know you had. The one downside to the use of the previously unknown muscles, is the fact that you will be sore the rest of the night, it’s a “fun” side effect.
Participating in this program has really shown me that anyone, no matter your age or athletic level, can play. In my apprentice class, we had individuals of all ages, and skill levels. However, by the end of the class we all learned the same skills and were able to serve, volley, hit backhanded, forehanded and everything else that goes along with the game.
I’m hoping to get out to the Oakland Tennis Center to play on my own, now that the program has ended. I’d like to keep up with it, and sharpen my skills. So if anyone would like to come out and play tennis, let me know. Unless you are a skilled player, that may just be too embarrassing.