Here's to You: Tennis - it's everybody's sport
What sport boasts players from age 5 to 85? What sport has people of many fitness levels and abilities? What sport includes men and women of varied incomes, race/ethnicity/ nationality, and political outlook?
Don't believe it? Observe some of the local tennis activities used by our neighbors and hosted by the Bemidji Area Tennis Association.
Tennis is a sport for nearly every age. Let's start with Quick Start tennis, a program to try tennis for free, for people of all ages. Tennis rackets and balls are provided. Temporary courts are set up at the Paul Bunyan Communications Fish Fry, at the waterfront during various events and in the schools. Some of the most enthusiastic players are five year olds! CHAMPS provides tennis for kids ages 10 to 17. Held at the middle school, kids learn basic tennis skills while having a fun and energizing workout.
Tennis continues into the teens and adulthood with leagues and tournaments established for skill level, for men, for women and for mixed groups. But tennis doesn't stop at middle age. There are 75- and 85-year-olds in Bemidji taking tennis lessons, playing in leagues and playing in tournaments. Tennis is a great sport for all ages.
People of all abilities and fitness levels can play tennis. There are beginning tennis players on the courts who struggle to get the ball over the net, who aren't sure about the rules of the game, or who just like to swat the ball around. There are also people on the courts who stay active by playing when relatives come to town, in summer leagues or weekly with friends. And there are advanced players who play several hours a day, are certified tennis teachers and/or compete in state or national tournaments. Tennis is a fun sport for people of all levels of skill and fitness.
Tennis is also diverse in player income levels, race/ethnicity/nationality and political outlook. People of low incomes can and do play tennis. Rackets and tennis balls can be purchased for less than $30 at local retail stores and can be used over and over again. Tennis court use in Bemidji is free outdoors from April to October. And indoor tennis, while quite limited in availability from November to March, still costs less than going to the movies. It is a great way to involve the whole family for very little money over time.
Tennis wear ranges from basic to top of the line, but most people dress for comfort, not status. T-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes are most comfortable. Most players start with clothing they already own. While there are players who buy only the latest of everything, the sport of tennis neither expects nor requires it.
Diversity is also present on the courts in other ways. Men and women play tennis, with 52 percent female players and 48 percent male players in Bemidji. There are women's leagues, men's leagues and mixed doubles leagues. As one gets to know the people on the courts in Bemidji the variety of people of different races/ethnicities/nationalities playing tennis will become obvious - Malaysian, Iranian, Native American, Caucasian, Portuguese, French, just to name a few. One also can't have all that diversity on the courts without political diversity. But that's for discussion after the game!
So for those who have always wanted to try tennis, there is no excuse this summer. For more information, and to get connected to people of the same skill level and interests, call 835-8122 or check out the BATA website at www.bemidji.usta.com. See you on the courts!
Cathy Schultz is a Bemidji Area Tennis Association board member.