Game, set and match: It’s ‘love all’ for tennis

The ongoing pandemic has boosted the numbers of people playing tennis across Cork, writes CHRIS DUNNE
Game, set and match: It’s ‘love all’ for tennis

A game at Sundays Well Tennis Club

ANYONE for a game of tennis?

If you haven’t lobbed a tennis ball over a net since your school days, you might want to pick up a racket again. A recent study suggests that people who play racket sports regularly may slash their odds of dying from a heart attack or stroke.

“Tennis was one of the first sports back after Covid-19 broke out and restrictions eased,” says Billy Flynn, President of Lower Aghada Tennis and Sailing Club.

It offered a welcome option to escaping the confines of four walls.

“I think because more people are working from home during the pandemic, there is a real enthusiasm to play tennis and to be part of a tennis club and part of a team,” says Billy.

The usual slog of not working 9 to 5 or spending time commuting to work offered more opportunity for people to take time out for physical pursuits.

“The number of people playing tennis during the day-time is up 50%,” says Billy, who has a bird’s eye view of the six all-weather flood-lit courts and one children’s court from his kitchen window.

“The influx has been amazing. Every single court here at Lower Aghada is full from 9am in the morning until 7.30pm in the evening.

“People are on the courts until after 10.30pm. And that is consistent across the board.”

Tennis players, old hands at the game, were re-acquainted with their rackets, and newbies to the game came on board after lockdown.

“The influx of new people taking up tennis and playing the sport is very encouraging,” says Billy.

“Membership subscription is noticeably up this year. It is nice to see the coaches back on court too.”

It is a win-win situation.

“Everyone was eager to get back playing tennis, especially those working from home or who are retired,” says Billy.

“Tennis and golf are low risk and online booking for courts is a great help,” says Billy.

“Contact tracing for Covid is easier when we have a record of people who put their names down to play.”

Tennis players are gently scraping the rust from their forehands and backhands all over Cork tennis clubs to hit the ball sweetly across the net, enthused by tennis’ resumption after lockdown.

“The interest from people looking to join the club is really great,” says Conor Twomey, head coach at Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club.

Conor Twomey, Head Coach at Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club
Conor Twomey, Head Coach at Bishopstown Lawn Tennis Club

“A tennis club is a natural social environment, different from an indoor gym. The physical aspect in an outdoor setting is very appealing to people, especially those working from home now,” says Conor.

Time is on their side.

“People have a bigger window now in which to play tennis, now that they are working from home more.

“They tend to get out more in the evenings to play tennis because their working week is more flexible.

“There has been a massive number of people returning to tennis and taking up tennis since lockdown.”

Tennis provides all-round physical activity with social interaction for all ages.

“It is great for the kids, who weren’t participating in PE classes in school when school was out,” says Conor. “Tennis is great for cardio health.”

The Great Outdoors is a good place to be.

“Indoor venues are uncertain during the pandemic, but the tennis court is safe, allowing social distancing, without being isolating.”

Friendships are forged on and off the court.

“Our weekly Ladies Morning is very popular,” says Conor.

“Everybody enjoys the sociability of it and people make lots of new friends here.”

When restrictions eased, tennis players got back their mojo.

“We’ve seen more new members than ever before,” says Robert Jenkins, President of Crosshaven Tennis Club, which is a small, friendly club in Brightwater that has three all-weather courts.

“Since mid-May, once restrictions eased, we saw a huge uptake in our club membership. The interest has been huge, there is more interest in tennis than ever before.”

Everyone for tennis showed up.

“Lots of people came out to enjoy a game of tennis or they come just for a social hit, especially those working from home,” says Robert.

“It is a great way to get some exercise and interact with other people. Enjoying an hour playing tennis you get to meet your pals in a familiar, friendly place. The positive factors of being part of the tennis club are great.”

The sport is very accessible.

“Tennis clubs are typically near towns and villages,” says Robert.

“So there’s no commuting involved. Attracting people to join a tennis club is easy, keeping them can prove more difficult! Now, more than ever, though, people who take up the sport see and feel all its merits.”

David Hannam, Secretary Manager of Sunday’s Well Boating and Tennis Club, with eight tennis courts that also boasts two squash courts, two snooker tables and a gym, agrees.

People playing Tennis at Crosshaven Tennis Club. Pictures: Ted Murphy
People playing Tennis at Crosshaven Tennis Club. Pictures: Ted Murphy

“Here at Sundays Well, we have seen a significant increase in the demand for membership and for court time,” says David.

“We are blessed that the club has eight courts so close to the city. This is all in the backdrop of the clubhouse and bar that backs onto the Lee and provides an oasis in the centre to the city.”

In summertime and wintertime, people come out to play tennis.

“Traditionally the summer would be a relatively quiet time, but this summer we have had the courts at close to full capacity.”

With summer on their minds, when the living is easy, people flocked to the tennis club.

“Players from all abilities and all age brackets are utilising the club,” says David.

“And thankfully we are seeing that trend continue.”

Why is everyone looking to serve and volley?

“Tennis is a very accessible sport,” says David.

“You can play with a racket, a ball and a pair of tennis shoes. It is outside, healthy and fun. With our club, we have a large membership and we work very hard at integrating new members and ensuring you get to play at a level or intensity that suits you.”

Covid provided some obstacles to people engaging in their favourite sports.

“Covid-19 has and continues to bring many challenges to us all,” says David.

People still want to play on.

“People need an outlet and one that is safe, compliant with the government guidance and that is accessible had that has a social context.” We all need someone to bounce off.

“People miss people,” says David.

“And tennis has been able to provide some of that in these difficult times. The social side of tennis is proving crucial.

“Prior to re-opening the club, we undertook a rigorous risk assessment process and we put very strict guidelines in place to ensure that we could protect all members who are using our facilities.

“The key driver for us was to re-open the club under the guidance of the government and Tennis Ireland, to do this to maximise the members’ opportunity to use the club,” says David.

The social side of tennis is important.

“We run initiatives for the members in terms of club nights, singles and doubles ladders, coaching junior and adult squads. These activities are all under the guidelines and driven to allow members to have that social outlet that is missing from a lot of us in the current environment.”

It’s ‘love all’ for tennis enthusiasts.

“Being able to stand on a tennis court and interact socially with people is incredibly important, even if there is a competitive edge to to the game!” says David, laughing.

Everyone is welcome to give tennis a go. It is known as ‘the sport for life.

“Tennis is a very inclusive sport and reaches all across all ages,” say David.

“We ran junior squads that start at age six on court recently, we had a 17-year-old playing with an 84 year old!”

Tennis, game set and match, is a game for all seasons and for all ages.

WHY PLAY?

Playing tennis has many health benefits including:

Increasing aerobic capacities

Lowering resting heart rate and blood pressure

Improving metabolic function

Increasing bone density

Lowering body fat

Improving muscle tone, strength and flexibility

Increasing reaction times

Tennis allows your capacity to deal with stress to increase since it includes mental, physical, emotional and social challenges.

TENNIS AND LEVEL 5 RESTRICTIONS: A STATEMENT FROM TENNIS IRELAND

No Tennis activities should take place during the Level 5 restriction with the following exceptions:

Non-contact training / coaching can continue for school aged children under the supervision of designated coaches. It must occur outdoors in pods of no more than 6 players per court. A maximum of 4 players can operate on the court at any one time while remaining in their own sections of the court, with up to 2 other players rotating in and out as required. All activities are subject to strict social distancing and those players not on court must always maintain a clear 2m distance from others.

High Performance / Professional Players are permitted to continue to train both indoors and outdoors.

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