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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
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
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!
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