The Philadelphia Inter-Club Lawn Tennis Association

The Place To Play

A Historical Black Perspective of Tennis

From "Days of Grace" by Arthur Ashe

Interview with Bode Miller

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Play on, and on, and on.....

by Lee Hamilton


WE'VE ALL SEEN them: men and women ...slight to medium build ...graying and/or thinning hair ...well worn sneakers ...always around the park or club, looking for someone to hit with ...and invariably possessed of a magical drop shot, and a maddening lob!

At the USTA, we're fond of describing tennis as the "sport for a lifetime." It's a handy marketing slogan. But it's .also a tennis truism.

No matter our youthful athletic accomplishments, I just don't know many folks age 50-plus who are playing recreational football, baseball, soccer, basketball or a dozen other sports. Yes, golf is a pretty good carry-over game for older people. But from a physical and mental health perspective, tennis not only is a game that we can play late in life, statistics show it's a game we should play throughout our lives and in our later years.

A recent study at Johns Hopkins University tracked the exercise habits of a group of graduates, and the research prompted a conclusion that regular tennis play was far more effective than other endeavors in maintaining cardiac health.

USTA statistics confirm that growing numbers of middle-aged and older- Americans simply love the game. Our 2002 national participation study showed that 14 percent of the 23.5 million tennis players in this country and nearly one- quarter of America's frequent players are age 50-plus. About 30 percent of the USTA's members-the readers of this magazine-are over 50.

This year the USTA has teamed up with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in a pilot series of "Welcome Back to Tennis" parties--aimed at those many 50-plus adults who told us they once played and then dropped out of tennis. The hope is that AARP's vast membership might come back to playing tennis regularly as they see their skills improve and remember how much fun it was "then" and how social the game can be "now."

Of course, there is a whole different category of "older" tennis players for whom socializing and health benefits are less important than the joy of competition. They are the tens of thousands who compete in men's and women's senior league play and in USTA-sanctioned age-group championships. And among them, we find the elite players whose competitive thirst isn't slaked until they've represented the U.S. in international competition.

So the next time someone tells you, "Oh, I'm too old to play tennis:' challenge their thinking and get them onto the court. And if you need help making the point, let me know. I'll bring my personal experience-and a few of my many tennis-playing AARP friends-to help with the convincing!

                                                                                                       -Lee Hamilton



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