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.

How Your Donation Supports Tennis

As a non-profit charitable organization, USTA Mid-Atlantic helps people and communities grow stronger, healthier, and more connected through tennis. We aim to make tennis the most accessible sport in the region and want everyone to have the opportunity to experience the lifelong benefits of tennis.

One of the ways we do this is by introducing youth to tennis through after school and summer camp programs.

When you make a tax-deductible donation, you help with program expenses such as these:

Donate today, and make an impact beyond the net.

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.

Amir F: USTA Mid-Atlantic is for Everyone

Amir Head ShotThis month we caught up with USTA Mid-Atlantic volunteer, Amir Frydman.  Amir shared what he loves about tennis, why he thinks it is important to support the growth of tennis and why he donates to USTA Mid-Atlantic.

Why do you choose to support USTA Mid-Atlantic Section? 

Amir F.: I support USTA Mid-Atlantic because it is an amazing organization. There is nothing like seeing the joy people of all ages get from playing tennis. When they say tennis is a sport for life, it is absolutely true. USTA Mid-Atlantic has done a great job getting kids involved from the time they can hold a youth racquet to adults of every age playing tennis. There is no age limit especially when you fall in love with the sport. 

For me, the catalyst for a love of tennis has been the USTA and in particular the Mid-Atlantic Section. The Section is highly organized and makes it easy for every player of every ability and socioeconomic status to enjoy tennis, whether it is to socialize or to compete.

Make a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year to support USTA Mid-Atlantic and our  effort to make tennis the most accessible sport in the region so that EVERYONE can play. 

Why do you feel we make a difference? How so? 

Amir F.: USTA Mid-Atlantic tennis is tennis for everyone. The Section has made tennis an activity without boundaries, especially through its after school and summer camp program. Whether there is a tennis court available or just a parking lot or a school gym, USTA Mid-Atlantic makes it accessible for everyone to play the game. They provide the equipment: racquets, nets, and the balls – all of it. They make it so fun and easy to get involved. There are few sports or activities that are not restricted by age, language, gender, race – tennis brings people from all walks of life together. That is why it is growing; and with the support of USTA Mid-Atlantic there are no limits.

Make a tax-deductible donation today and support the power of tennis to bring people together and change lives in our region.

What do you think about our after school and summer camp program? What do you think is different about this youth program? 

Amir F.: I absolutely love the program. I had the chance to visit the USTA Mid-Atlantic tennis summer camp program this past summer. I was expecting a small group of children playing. Instead I saw a large group of children actively participating and learning with the program coaches. I could not believe how well organized the program was. It is never easy to get 30 kids of all levels excited and participating. Without exception everyone was having fun and everyone was engaged. The coaches did an amazing job teaching without making it look like they were teaching. 

One wonderful aspect was that while I noticed some different levels of talent or experience, the instructors made every kid feel great about themselves. The enthusiasm from the coaches and program director was contagious. I love tennis and seeing Alex, associate director of recreation programs for USTA Mid-Atlantic, get so excited when describing the programs made me a bigger fan than ever. KUDOS to Alex and the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section for getting so many kids excited about tennis from all over! 

Since 2016, USTA Mid-Atlantic has been introducing youth to tennis through summer camp and after school tennis programs and is committed to subsidizing the program so that the cost is lower and more children can participate. Generous donations help us bring more tennis programs to children all across the region.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating to USTA Mid-Atlantic? 

Amir F.: If you love tennis whether actively participating in it or you have a child playing tennis or just love to watch tennis, think about why you love it so much. You probably fell in love with it watching the amazing athletes who make it look so effortless or taking a friend to a tennis court and hitting some balls or playing in a tournament or for one of so many many other reasons.  

Tennis opens up so many opportunities for so many to become part of a sport that lasts a lifetime. It provides opportunities to meet people from all walks of life who share the same passion for the sport regardless of age, gender or background. Giving to the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section opens doors to more people, like yourself, to be a part of the world of tennis and the amazing benefits everyone gets from the sport.  

A donation of any size really does make a difference. Just visit a USTA Mid-Atlantic youth summer camp or watch a USTA League match and you will see why USTA Mid-Atlantic Section makes such a difference in so many lives in a fun and healthy way.

Tell us more about you. How long have you been playing tennis? What do you love most about the sport? Where are you from and what do you enjoy when you aren’t playing tennis?

Amir F.: I started playing tennis in lower school, but by 9th grade I fell in love with the sport. 

I think I got most excited about tennis when we lived in North Carolina and hosted a junior team from Israel. At the time, Israel was just developing their tennis program. The kids participating were all 12 and under. I was hoping to play with some of the 12 year olds and show them a thing or two that I, as a Junior in High School, knew about tennis. Well, I got schooled. These kids were amazing and were the best of the best. I just loved the fact how all the kids interacted and became friends so easily with each other and yet still competed fiercely.

I play tennis every chance I can get. It not only satisfies my need to exercise but there is no better way to let some steam out than hitting a tennis ball. Playing singles gives me the opportunity to decompress. The amazing thing about tennis is I can compartmentalize any work problems or other issues that come up during the day. When I am on the court, it is my time to just enjoy. Playing doubles gives me the opportunity to socialize and have fun!

When not playing tennis… when is that?  I love being with my wife, kids and dogs. My wife loves tennis too, so when we travel we usually bring our racquets.

It is through the love of tennis we can change lives together. You can help us continue to make tennis accessible to all in the Mid-Atlantic Section, and help us deliver more after school and summer camp tennis programs to ALL children in our region. With the year coming to an end, now is the time to make an annual gift. You can give a tax-deductible donation today!


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.