Teaching Moments from Tennis, by Autumn Schiff

Tennis is an important staple in Autumn Schiff’s life. She is an avid player, fan, and this year she coached USTA Mid-Atlantic’s summer youth programs – teaching the next generation the life-long benefits of the sport. As she completed her summer coaching, she reflected on the important “teachable moments” you get from playing tennis, which are especially reinforced when you are teaching the sport to someone new to the game.

Lessons like “approach, and put it away” or “stand tall and play to win” not only help guide a person’s tennis game but can be applied to everyday life too.

Autumn writes about her favorite teaching moments from tennis she has learned over the years and how you can apply them directly to your life.

Read more below:

Play for Love: Who couldn’t like a game that literally starts with love? The origin of this term in tennis is a mystery.  I prefer to think it is based on the idea of playing for the “love of the game” and  being a good sport.
Autumn Schiff and her daughter playing tennis.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball:  t his one is an obvious metaphor, but so true. If you take your eye off the ball [whether in tennis or in life] for even one second, you miss your shot. Stay focused!
Autumn’s first tennis tournament in 1990, she is pictured on the left.
Dig Deep and Stay Light on Your Toes: This concept requires you to stay strong, but exhibit grace. Or as leadership expert Brené Brown says, “lead with a soft front and a strong back.”
A photo of Autumn on the tennis court this summer.

Each lesson that Autumn has learned has been helpful for both her tennis game and strategy as well as her life and career. She applies what she learns on the court to how she navigates through life off the court.

To read Autumn Schiff’s full blog go to http://www.careercharters.com or click here. And let us know what life lessons you have learned from playing tennis. Share your story with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or by emailing Megan Driscoll at driscoll@mas.usta.com.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

Arthur Ashe

Serving Off Court: Gearing Up With TennisTopia

Excitement is building in the Mid-Atlantic as tennis players are getting out more and more to play. Over the last few weeks, USTA Mid-Atlantic teamed up with local business owners on our  #ServeItForward business list for info that can help you get back on the court. So far, we shared fitness tips from LaRue Cook, owner of LEC Fitness, and a healthy recipe to fuel your body from Corey Kuck, owner of Catering By Corey

Now, we turn our attention to tennis gear and caught up with Darrell Haines, the owner and founder of local Mid-Atlantic tennis shop TennisTopia

A Michigan native, Darrell was introduced to tennis by his dad who managed a tennis club and supported Darrell in his love for tennis. Growing up, Darrell played junior competitive tennis tournaments and eventually went on to play for Ferris State University in Michigan. While at Ferris State, Darrell majored in Professional Tennis Management and Marketing. After college, he eventually landed in Montgomery County, Maryland and opened TennisTopia in Rockville, Md., in 2006.

What Darrell loves most about TennisTopia is connecting with people. From competitive players to those just starting out, Darrell enjoys learning about his customers and then helping them select the right tennis gear that is suited to their needs and play – a highly personalized approach. He also loves the diversity of tennis and how tennis can bring people together. 

In our conversation with Darrell, we chatted about tennis gear and the services that TennisTopia offers. 

USTA Mid-Atlantic: What are a few unique products or services that your shop offers? 

Darrell Haines: We offer while-you-wait racquet restringing services. We have two professional stringers that have both strung on the pro tour. In fact, one of the stringers is one of the few stringers in the world to string three of the four grand slams in the same year.

Stringing really can make a difference for someone depending on their level of play. When you have a bad string job, you can really tell the difference. It is our stringing services that set us apart from other shops.

We also offer one-to-one customer service and our staff is very knowledgeable about our products. The goal of every staff member is to help players choose gear that is best for them, no matter what their level of play is. 

As we return to play, what are your top 5 items everyone should have in their tennis bag?

First and foremost, everyone should definitely have their mask and hand sanitizer, but apart from that, I recommend having an extra racquet so you have a backup. You never know when you might break a string or have something happen to the grip. 

Next, I recommend having an extra pair of shoes for after you play. Fourth, I recommend having wristbands. Wristbands are great to help absorb extra sweat and to keep the sweat from getting on the racquet. Finally, keep extra tennis balls in your bag. 

What are a few tips for taking care of your gear – especially after a prolonged absence from tennis?

After not playing for a few months, I highly recommend that everyone restring and regrip their racquets. Regular restringing helps keep your game consistent. I would recommend restringing your racquet twice a year. Also, it is important to replace grips because good grips help you from gripping the racquet too hard which can lead to tennis elbow. Lower level players often undervalue the power of a newer string job and what a new grip can do for your play and technique. Those two things really do make a big difference on your play.

Any final thoughts about getting back on court?

People are getting back to playing tennis and it’s so nice to see. It really is a lifetime sport.

As a valued partner of the #ServeItForward campaign, TennisTopia is offering 10% off all purchases with promo code: MAS10 and all online orders of $50 or more are eligible for 2-day free shipping. Visit the store in-person in at 827-A Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD or check out their online store!

USTA Mid-Atlantic invites everyone to continue to #ServeItForward both on and off-court, and get involved in helping to support tennis in the Mid-Atlantic Section.  Learn more about how you can #ServeItForward and support the USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization, as we bring the healing power of tennis to our Mid-Atlantic community. 

Serving Off Court: Three Tips for Preparing Your Body for Summer Tennis

After missing almost the entire spring tennis season, players are eager to take to the local courts and get in some tennis this summer as the sport resumes in the Mid-Atlantic. However, long absences from tennis may mean approaching getting back onto the court differently than you may be used to, both physically and with the equipment you use. 

As part of our #ServeItForward campaign, USTA Mid-Atlantic has teamed up with some local experts and tennis business owners – featured on the #ServeItForward business list –   to bring you tips and info that can help you get back into tennis.  

First up, we talked with LaRue Cook, Owner/Managing Member of LEC Fitness, LLC. LaRue has more than 24 years of sports performance training experience and has served as consultant and trainer to various tennis, golf, fitness, and health organizations and programs such as Army-Navy Club and Aspen Hill Racquet Club. Additionally, he has written/contributed a number of articles for publications and organizations such as the International Tennis Performance Association, Tennis View Magazine, and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. His articles covered topics such as Tennis Fitness and Conditioning, Injury Prevention for Athletes, Post-Rehab Training, and Strength and Conditioning for Female Athletes.

LaRue knows firsthand the powerful effect of post-rehabilitation strength and conditioning.  During his senior year of high school, LaRue was on track to play collegiate baseball when he suffered a rotator cuff injury. He was unable to continue playing and was in significant pain for years until he started post-rehabilitation strengthening exercises. The strengthening exercises specifically targeted the muscles surrounding his injury and allowed him to regain the strength and movement necessary to return to sports.

In the years since LaRue returned to playing sports, he took up tennis. 

“I primarily compete in USTA-sanctioned tournaments,” LaRue says.  Last year he represented the Mid-Atlantic Section at the NTRP National 50+ Championships in Surprise, AZ, and ranked in the Top 10 of the Mid-Atlantic Men’s 4.0 Adult [18+] Singles for more than 10 years.  

With all of LaRue’s experience as a tennis player and professional in sports training, USTA Mid-Atlantic asked him for a few tips for getting back out on the courts in the summer months and after an absence from regularly playing. 

Here are his top three tips: 

Tip #1: Warm up by doing a series of dynamic stretches 

During the summer tennis season, a common misconception is that the warm weather outside is an adequate warm-up for playing sports or exercise. However, your body does not function this way. The best and most effective way to warm up your major muscles and joints is to perform dynamic stretches.

Dynamic stretches are a series of repetitive motions that increase your range of motion and slightly increase your core temperature. These stretches are used for warming up the muscles and loosening the joints to prepare them for a strenuous workout. 

Try this quick, 5-minute warm-up consisting of side shuffles, backpedal jog, power skip plus reach, and walking knee to chest.

Tip #2: Do not underestimate how heat can affect your body 

Heat can be harmful during the summer tennis season and conditions ranging from muscle cramping to heat exhaustion can creep up on players. Therefore, it is especially important to stay hydrated by drinking at regular intervals to replace some of the fluids the body loses through sweating. Equally as important is to cover up with clothing and sunscreen. Light-colored, breathable clothing and sunscreen of at least 30 SPF will protect the skin and help your body stay cool while on the court.

Tip #3: Take it easy the first few times you return to court

During the last several months, many of us have not been as active as we normally would be and because of this, we may have all regressed in our ability to play tennis. Do not return to the court expecting that you will immediately perform at the same level of play you had prior to the pandemic shutdowns. Take it easy and be patient with your body as it gets used to being active again.

LaRue’s final nugget of advice:  “Remember, the most important piece of equipment you ALWAYS take out onto the court with you is your body. Tune it up through exercise and conditioning before trying to go ‘full tilt’ back into the competition!”

USTA Mid-Atlantic hopes that these excellent tips will help your body adjust to getting out to play! 

USTA Mid-Atlantic invites everyone to #ServeItForward both on and off-court, and get involved in helping to support tennis in the Mid-Atlantic Section as part of the recovery process we’ll all need.  Learn more about how you can #ServeItForward and support the USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization, as we bring the healing power of tennis to our Mid-Atlantic community. 

Let us know how you or your tennis friends #ServeItForward by emailing hughes@mas.usta.com.

Serving Off the Court: A Perspective on Healing Through Tennis

By, Deirdre Hughes

As a black woman living in a diverse metropolitan community, I don’t face a daily barrage of overt racism. Instead, I encounter the slow, steady drip of microaggressions and bias that wear on my mind and soul. Regular occurrences like the glares of disdain from my neighbors as I walk in my own neighborhood; Starbucks Barista moving the tip jar when I step up to the counter or the co-worker telling me that racism “isn’t a thing.” My experience, it’s like death by a thousand pin-pricks. 

Our current times have generated high stress and anxiety across the nation, in the local Mid-Atlantic region and around the globe. In the African American community, high blood pressure and diabetes are prevalent; African American adults are 60 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician, according to the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Studies suggest that these chronic diseases are also linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders. Further, research that links experiences of racism with poor mental health is emerging. 

Fortunately, one of my best strategies for combating stressful experiences is tennis.

My tennis story begins on the public tennis courts in Buffalo, N.Y.  My uncle, who is also a tennis player, gave me my first racquet as a Christmas gift when I was in middle school. That following summer, I started learning tennis in a free tennis summer camp sponsored by the Buffalo Department of Parks and Recreation.

My passion for the sport started during those summers. Over the years I played tennis every once in a while. Then in 2011, I started taking lessons again when my job’s wellness benefit covered tennis lessons. Over time, as I saw improvement in my play, I began playing more and more. 

Currently, I am a 3.0 player but I prefer to play at 3.5. I am a singles player but I will play doubles from time to time. I have played on various teams around the Washington, D.C. metro region in addition to playing in USTA Sanctioned tournaments. My biggest tennis accomplishments to date include an undefeated season in 6.0 Mixed Doubles and winning the January 2019 Ladies 3.0 Singles Simkins Indoor NTRP tournament in Greensboro, N.C.  

For me, tennis is an escape and outlet from the daily stresses of my life. Nothing else matters when I step onto a tennis court. From my first strike of the ball, I can feel all my anxiety melt away and my problems temporarily disappear. After I finish playing, I am relaxed and positive, and ready to once again tackle my everyday life.

Tennis also helps my mental acuity. I love the challenge of thinking through a match, problem-solving, self-evaluating, and correcting mistakes. These skills don’t just reside on the tennis court but are skills that I use in my professional life as a marketing manager at USTA Mid-Atlantic. Further, tennis aids in developing mental toughness and resilience. Two very important traits needed to navigate our world.

It’s important not to underestimate the power of tennis. Tennis is unlike any other sport;  a lifelong sport that offers physical and mental benefits. Just read Dr. Jack Groppel’s 34 Reasons to Play Tennis and listen to the webinars he held with us at USTA Mid-Atlantic recently and you’ll gain an understanding of the physical and psychological reasons to play the sport.

While playing tennis cannot solve systemic issues such as racism, it can, however, aid in relieving stress and improving overall health. Tennis can foster connections, communication, and community. Healthy minds and bodies create healthy communities. 

Tennis can help all people  – socially, emotionally, and physically. 

And it is with this very belief USTA Mid-Atlantic works hard to make tennis the most accessible sport in the region for ALL people and communities. Tennis can help as part of a recovery process and the #ServeItForward campaign is in progress to support this effort.

USTA Mid-Atlantic invites everyone to #ServeItForward both on and off-court, and get involved in helping to support tennis in the Mid-Atlantic Section as part of the recovery process we’ll all need.  Learn more about how you can #ServeItForward and support the USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit organization, as we bring the healing power of tennis to our Mid-Atlantic community. 

Resources:

https://www.anxiety.org/black-americans-how-to-cope-with-anxiety-and-racism

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20191204/african-americans-face-unique-mental-health-risks

https://www.humana.com/learning-center/health-and-wellbeing/fitness-and-exercise/tennis#:~:text=Joan%20Finn%20did%20a%20study,other%20athletes%20or%20non%2Dathletes.

https://www.active.com/tennis/articles/five-benefits-of-tennis

https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=18

On The Way: More Safe Places to Play Tennis

Local tennis courts – whether at a public park, school, or within a community – have the power to bring people together. The tennis court is where someone can learn the sport for the first time, where friends and neighbors meet for fun competition, and where people of all backgrounds and abilities find common ground. But not all tennis courts are equal. 

USTA Mid-Atlantic strives to make tennis the most accessible sport in the region and having safe, well-maintained and inviting places to play in local communities is critical to growing the game. Yet, many communities have courts with more wear-and-tear or lack accessible tennis courts completely.

That’s why we are proud to continue to offer and award our Safe Place to Play Grants. 

Safe Place to Play grants support tennis court refurbishment and construction projects in the Mid-Atlantic region to help revitalize tennis court spaces and create more opportunities for people to experience the sport.

Morgan County Tennis Association looking to fill this area with tennis courts.

At the conclusion of 2019, we awarded two local entities with grant funding to support their tennis court projects with work to begin and continue through 2020. 

The Morgan County Tennis Association (Berkeley Springs, W.Va.) – Safe Place to Play grant funding will support the continuation of their work to construct the first regulation-sized tennis facility in their local area. Without any regulation-sized tennis courts in Morgan County, this new facility will be a welcome addition to the community and will enable more people, especially children, to have access to free tennis programming. They are working with the local government, parks and recreation department and local school board on this project and received grant funding from USTA Mid-Atlantic in 2018. This additional grant funding will support the final phases of the project including construction beginning in June 2020 and court activation in the fall of 2020.

Westleigh Recreation Club (North Potomac, Md.) and MATA Sports – MATA Sports is an organization based in the Washington, D.C. area that aims to instill healthy living habits among youth through sports, especially through tennis. The organization is working to rebuild and reinvigorate the love of tennis at the Westleigh Recreation Club in North Potomac, Md., and for the surrounding community, however, the state of the existing courts has become detrimental to the effort. Grant funding from the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section will help repair, repaint, and resurface the courts; replace the backboard; and purchase new windscreens and nets.

With improved courts at Westleigh and strong community interest in tennis, MATA Sports hopes to increase tennis participation among all ages and levels. For youth, they plan to host weekly tennis events, especially beginner and introductory Net Generation events that help introduce kids to the game in fun ways. They also hope to reinstate USTA Junior Team Tennis, host competitive events and training for those juniors looking for more and offer USTA League for adults at all levels. Free sports days, scholarship opportunities and more are planned to reach even more people with tennis. Their goal is to complete the tennis court revitalization efforts by the beginning of April 2020.

Mid-Atlantic’s Safe Place to Play Grant at work in 2019.

USTA Mid-Atlantic, a non-profit charitable organization with a mission to promote and develop the growth of tennis, aims to make tennis the most accessible sport in the region. Quality tennis infrastructure in more Mid-Atlantic communities of all types is a key aspect of succeeding in the mission and vision of the organization.

Your tax-deductible donations support this grant program and efforts to improve and add tennis court infrastructure throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Make a donation today so that we can continue to offer even more Safe Place to Play grants to help more local tennis courts become safe, inviting places to learn and play the game. 

More information about the 2020 Safe Place to Play Grant application and process will be announced soon. 


USTA Mid-Atlantic Section, Inc. is an exempt organization as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; EIN 54-1472806. All donations made to USTA Mid-Atlantic Section Inc. are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.