by Joe Dinoffer, USPTA, USPTR, ITA, USTWA††††††††††
story is about another example of the scientific community confirming what many
of us lifelong tennis lovers have believed for years ---
that tennis is not only the best sport to play for a lifetime, but that it is also the best first sport for children to learn as well. Itís an important
and logical consideration. After all, it makes a great deal of sense for parents to encourage their children to select a first sport to learn which
will develop the greatest number of skills required by the greatest number of other sports and activities. The chart on this page presents a
very convincing argumENT.
Here are the tennis-specific notes and definitions to help you better understand the chart.
Throwing - We all know that the
service and overhead motion in tennis is identical to baseball and football. It
shouldnít be surprising to note
†that when baseball players or quarterbacks take up tennis, they serve like Pete Sampras.
Catching - It has long been
understood that the soft-hand skills required for volleying, as well as
dropshots, lobs, and other touch shots in
tennis are terrific catching skill-builders for other sports.
Striking - Anyone who has played
tennis knows how much easier tennis makes learning all other racquet sports. In
fact, studies have proven
significant carry-overs from one racquet sport to others, as well as to other striking activities like baseball and hockey.
Running & Striking - This
very specific skill is one of the most challenging features of tennis, and one
of the most valuable skill-builders a
developing athlete can master. In this area, most other sports donít compare at all.
Movement Rhythm - Sports
educators are now broadly beginning to emphasize the importance of rhythm in
sports, although dance teachers
have long expounded itís benefits. Because tennis is a continuous rhythm activity, it offers many timing and rhythm benefits not available
from many other sports. It may be interesting to compare soccer and tennis in this regard. In tennis, players are constantly involved with the
ball; however in soccer, a center halfback, for example, will only be in contact with the soccer ball about two minutes in a full court 90-minute
3-Step Movement Patterns - At a
recent multiple sports conference, a featured speaker spoke about the 3-step
movement principal for
sports like kicking in soccer and football. In tennis as well, leading coaches are pointing out that almost all baseline movement can be
covered in three steps.
Aerobic - Although tennis is
accepted as more anaerobic than aerobic, the aerobic benefits of playing tennis
are very high as compared to
other sports such as baseball or golf.
Anaerobic - There was a recent
comparison of calories burned by different activities over a 3-hour period.
Competitive and moderate tennis
scored near the top of the list. Why? The on-going high level of anaerobic activity in tennis compares quite favorably to all other sports. This
makes tennis a wonderful first sport to build both stamina and strength in children.
Team-Building - Most junior
tennis classes are organized in a group learning environment, encouraging a team
atmosphere within an
individual sport. And, what is perhaps the most exciting tennis event of the year? Davis Cup play - a total team experience.
The final point of interest on
our comparison chart is to consider which of the sports listed can be played for
a lifetime. After all, it makes
sense to invest the most time and resources in an activity which pays the highest dividends. And tennis does just that.
A final comment is that the
USTA, USPTA, and USPTR should be complimented for aggressively supporting a free
designed to both introduce tennis to students and help train physical education teachers at schools across the country, regardless of whether
or not they have tennis courts. However, at the USTA Eastern Division convention held earlier this year, I was surprised to hear that the City
of White Plains (incidentally where I was born and raised and which is now the national headquarters of the USTA) recently refused to accept
the generosity of the USTA and allow a free tennis program to be conducted in its public school system. Maybe someone from the school
district will read this article and change their minds for the next calendar year. For the sake of the children, I hope so.