We’ve all heard tennis talked about as a lifelong sport. Kids can start enjoying tennis at even younger ages now due to new, lighter balls designed for beginners, and the USTA organizes tennis play events for age groups all the way up to 90+. Given that we can all enjoy tennis for almost the entirety of our existence on this planet, this sport can truly have a significant impact on the overall joy we experience in our lives. While I am not yet 90 (I am however closer to 90 than I am to my date of birth), the sport of tennis has had a lasting positive effect on my life. Here are the five most important ways tennis can add joy to the human experience.
- Playing tennis is physical. The human body is meant to move. And I am not talking about playing Wii tennis (though I suppose waiving your arm at a TV screen is better than endlessly scrolling through your Instagram newsfeed). Playing tennis is a fun way to get exercise. And exercise increases your chances of getting to age 90 and still being able to swing a racket.
- Tennis is a social sport. It offers us the opportunity to forge relationships through the community of other people you can play tennis with. And in most areas of the country, local tennis facilities, and the USTA offer leagues where people can form or join teams. After getting divorced several years ago and moving to a new town where I did not know many people, I developed a rich network of friends that started by going to a local tennis clinic offered by the community recreation department.
- Tennis is a game. Games are fun! Enough said.
- Tennis is global. When we play or watch tennis, we are speaking the same language as the millions and millions of other people around the world who play or watch tennis. It gives us common ground with people who may seem very different. This gives us a feeling of connection, which feeds an inner sense of peace and comfort in a world that can quite often feel fractured and sometimes hostile.
- Tennis teaches us how to live. Learning to truly enjoy tennis, even when we lose, teaches us how to focus on the effort we give to a life well lived. Rafael Nadal is famously quoted as saying “Losing is not my enemy...fear of losing is my enemy”. Rafa has talked about matches where he has lost, but he still enjoyed the match, because he was satisfied in his effort to play his best. It is only when he loses due to being focused on the outcome (winning) instead of being focused on playing every point with intensity, passion, and his best effort, that he is upset with himself. And so it is with life. When we stop thinking about what others have that we don’t, or comparing ourselves to others in general, and instead focus on giving our best effort to our work, our relationships, or to the causes we believe in - then we can live with joy consistently.