If you’re trying to decide whether or not to take up tennis, the most important question should always be whether or not you enjoy the game. Tennis is fast-paced, exciting and surprisingly cerebral; it’s almost as much about understanding your opponent and staying mentally strong as it about physical skill. If dashing about the tennis court with a racket in your hand, whilst squaring off one-on-one against another player, sounds like a great way to pass the time, then tennis might well be the sport for you.
That being said, here are some other factors to consider:
First off, tennis is just great exercise. As well as practising your hand-eye coordination, and giving yourself a good muscular workout with all those heavy swings, tennis is characterised by short periods of waiting followed by intense bursts of vigorous exercise as you sprint across the court. That’s going to keep you fit and burn a lot of calories at the same time; think of it as gamified interval training.
Most studies now agree that everyone ought to be doing some sort of exercise to raise their heart rates at least once a week, and scientists at Harvard established that just a few hours of tennis can increase your life-span. If you’re not currently involved in any sport at all, tennis is a great choice.
Of course, any exercise comes with health risks and tennis is no different. There are obvious risk factors to take into account when performing any activity that requires you to dash about on a hard surface: you could sprain your ankle or fall and cut yourself, just as with any number of activities such as jogging or football.
There are a few specific risks associated with tennis, too. More than a lot of other sports, Tennis is extremely repetitive alongside being physically demanding. You will be repeating motions like serving or your forehand swing dozens, potentially hundreds, of times every match, with the aim to be as consistent and perfect as possible. Tennis players are therefore prone to a number of respective strain injuries, such as tennis elbow or plantar fasciitis.
If you have any chronic issues with physical activity or joint pain, it would be wise to consult your doctor to make sure that tennis is the best sport for you.
Buying the right tennis racket can really help with these potential problems, but that leads us to…
The health benefits of tennis aren’t limited to just the physical. Dr John Murray, a sports psychologist, has identified a whole raft of mental benefits that are associated with playing tennis. There are a variety of possible reasons for this: sport, in general, is known to release endorphins, which can help elevate your mood, whilst the exercise improves an individual’s body image and increases various positive associations. Tennis, in particular, is a very psychological game, and squaring off regularly and assertively against an opponent may well lead to improved feelings of autonomy, confidence and self-esteem.
Unlike five a side football or a pickup basketball game, tennis has quite a few associated costs. An amateur player doesn’t need professional gear, but a cheap racket will definitely hold back your performance. If you’re particularly concerned about mitigating the risk of injury and are looking for a good pair of tennis shoes and a racket with a high-quality shock-absorbing handle, it’s very easy to find that you’ve sunk hundreds of pounds into equipment and clothes before you even step foot on the court.
You also need to think about where you’re going to play because you can’t organise a quick tennis match on a field in the same way that you might set up a knock-about game of football. A lot of parks or community sports centres will have tennis courts, and not all of them require you to pay, but free courts can sometimes be poorly maintained. A real tennis enthusiast may want to join a tennis club and membership can be pricey. The costs here aren’t as excessive as a sport like golf, but they can still be significant.
Tennis, perhaps more than other games, also really benefits from coaching. Any tennis player is only really as good as his or her service game, and that’s a really hard skill to practice by yourself. If you’re looking to get into tennis as an adult, and you’re a complete novice, then it would be a great idea to look into group lessons or one on one coaching.
Playing tennis will get you out of the house and, by its very nature, acting with at least one other person (and you’re not going to want to play the same person forever). You can socialise with your friends, if they like tennis too, join a tennis club, or get involved in local group classes and make new friends. If you enjoy playing the odd doubles match, then you’re even practising your coordination and teamwork.
Whilst the apparatus around tennis can be quite social if you have a local club or class to join, it’s also quite an isolated game. There are only two players at a time, and your opponent stands several metres away from you for most of the match, trying desperately to beat and out-think you. You’re never going to get the feeling of social inclusion from tennis that you might feel with a team sport like football, cricket or rowing. Playing a lot of tennis involves spending an awful lot of time inside your own head, and you’ll need to enjoy that.
Tennis is a classic game, with a long history, enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Like any sport, it can have its drawbacks, but if you find it appealing to you, the best thing that you can do is jump onto a court and have a go for yourself!