With the spring tennis season well underway, I’ve being enjoying the opportunity to “talk tennis” with friends, fellow recreational players, and contacts across the country. On my mind these last few weeks has been tennis participation and the barriers that keep some Canadians from the game they’d like to play.
Here are some of the barriers cited – and some solutions to counter them:
- “There are no courts in my community”
If this is the case, the first thing to do is search the “find a court” option at the bottom of this page. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that there are in fact courts within your community. If you can’t walk to them, consider driving or cycling. If in fact there are no accessible courts, remember that tennis can still be enjoyed in a number of other ways – such as hitting balls against a flat surface (i.e. the window-less wall of a school, the garage door, etc.). It’s also possible to enjoy a good rally (even a net-less one) with a friend in an empty parking lot or school yard. While these options may not be your ideal, they will still enable you to get started, practice, and build skill. Portable tennis nets can also be purchased and quickly set up if that’s of interest. Finally, don’t forget to see if indoor tennis lessons are an option at a local school or community centre. I’ve recently heard of one community’s ice rink being used for indoor tennis and camps throughout the summer months.
- “Equipment is a fortune”
It’s true that the cost of sport participation is prohibitive for some families, but in reality, there is little equipment required to start playing tennis. Some running shoes, a racquet, and a can of balls is all that’s needed. Many clubs collect older racquets for distribution; they can often be found at garage sales; some camps will loan them to children; they can often be found at second-hand stores that sell sports equipment. You need not have the latest racquet model or the perfect stringing job to get started! As I’ve shared in a prior post, I got my start with an old wood racquet my parents scooped up at a garage sale, and a ball I has to wrestle from the dog.
- “Tennis camp is expensive”
If cost is a barrier to your children attending tennis camp, but they are keen to learn, don’t be shy about approaching local camps with your dilemma. Many offer subsidized spots for campers, a pay-what-you-can option, or will simple find a way to accommodate your children. Most camps are thrilled to nurture a love of tennis in anyone who wants to play!
- “Lessons cost too much”
First off, you don’t need to take lessons to introduce your kids to tennis or to begin playing yourself. Grab a racquet and ball and you can get started right away! Check out this Beginners Guide to Getting Started. If you do decide to take some lessons, consider group or semi-private lessons to reduce the cost substantially. In going this route, you’re also more likely to find partners to practice with!
- “I don’t have anyone to play with”
Sadly, lack of a partner is a barrier cited by many Canadians. You can overcome this by joining your local community club to meet others who play; posting a note at your local courts; asking friends, neighbours and colleagues if they’d like to join you for a fun rally or game; and popping by your local tennis club to provide your contact information for those also looking for a partner.
- “Adults always get the courts”
I heard this time and time again from kids and teens eager to play but unable to get court time. Public courts are generally accessed on a first-come, first-served basis with a maximum play period when others are waiting. Please be fair and let others, kids included, onto the courts – or consider inviting those waiting to join you and your partner for a quick doubles rally before you give up your court. Make sure you know your club’s policies for children and teens and as a means of encouraging tennis participation for all, advocate for fair rules.
- “I don’t play tennis and can’t teach my kids”
All parents have the ability to introduce their kids to the game. See these tips from parents and pros.
- “I think my kids would enjoy tennis, but I can’t get them away from the TV, computer, and video games”
Canadian kids spend more time in front of screens each week than their parents spend at work. This sedentary time is contributing to a host of potentially serious health concerns and diseases, perhaps even leading to shorter lifespans for today’s children. Your kids need an hour of heart-pumping activity every day. Get them moving for their health. Here are 20 reasons kids deserve an active childhood. Be the active role model your kids need, and know that active kids perform better in school.