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The Tennis Class!
By Tony Severino
Certified Instructor 4A
Professional Tennis Registry

Tony Serverino Photo
Tony Severino

The tennis class is already warming up; at the net to focus the eyes, then the service line to hone accuracy; and finally the baseline to warm-up their strokes.

Margie has a wary look in her eyes as each stroke is demonstrated. Her approach to each stroke is cautious, hitting that fuzzy little yellow ball, not very hard. Thoughts are ping-ponging in her head: "I don't belong in this class." At twenty-five, this is her first venture in anything athletic. Tennis, she thought, might be an entree to a new life.

"I don't belong in this class": You could read it in her demeanor. How to dispel that mind set and develop a new tennis player?

That's my job. I'm a tennis instructor.
(Dum-de-dum dum)

Joyce saunters in, fashionably late and beaming a delighted to be here smile. One expects a pirouette to highlight her arrival. She unzips the cover... to her cell phone of course, to let someone know she has arrived at her tennis class. Finally a racquet appears and Joyce proceeds to the court. "Hi everyone. I'm here!"


Ryan tosses a ball softly to David, who is off in fairyland playing Roger Federer. He dreams one day of becoming a professional tennis player. The ball rebounds off his left temple. David stands for a moment looking puzzled; then decides to sit down; then lays down stretched out supine, resembling a clothed version of da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.

"Get up David," urges Ryan. "Let's go!"
"C'mon David let's play!"

David isn't paying attention. Rather, he is enjoying the role of downed hero after a great play; the crowd roaring approval. Federer applauding with his racquet.

"C'mon David, get up. It was only a foam Speed Ball that hit you."

David will probably do better sticking with his matches against Federer.

Tom swings elbows akimbo, racquet face in an inverted waitress position. Balls go right and left and off the back screen. To correct that we strap Tom's right arm to his body to keep his elbow from flaring out. That works. He thinks that's great. We let him work with that for a while. Then we try the ball in the armpit approach. That works too. His movements are still a little jerky, but when we smooth them out he'll be a nice tennis player. Tom belongs in this class.

Gerry likes a lot of individual instruction. At thirty-something she waited a long time for some basic instruction. She can't wait to try it out on her friends. She questions everything, but in a polite way. She wants to know everything. Teaching children you just demonstrate and they imitate, but adults want to know why things are done the way they are. They keep you sharp. Gerry keeps me sharp. She belongs here.

MaryAnn just loves the drills and the strategy pointers we give. MaryAnn will ask a question, and then give you the answer in a hundred words or more. She wants to write a book on woman's tennis.

MaryAnn, there isn't any "women's tennis." It's just tennis. Some ladies play at the 2.0 level and enjoy it their entire playing life. Many, many others play at higher levels. You can call it "women's tennis" if you must, but it's just good tennis! MaryAnn belongs in this class.

You could almost read George's mind: "This stuff is great. He lets me do my thing my way, but I wish he'd spend more time with me." "I know George. I'll get to you."

Charles is sixty-five and thinks maybe he shouldn't be here. I assured him it wouldn't be a problem. I've had many sixty-plus students. "We're here to have fun, Charles, and to learn tennis.

He appears to be in good shape; doesn't have the "look at me, I'm pregnant" appearance that too many men over thirty flaunt. He'll do just fine and enjoy many years of tennis at whatever level he attains. Sixty-five, after all, is just a number. "Welcome to tennis, Charles. You do belong here."

Arthur and Angie come every week. She is athletically challenged; he tries to be her surrogate instructor. They pay attention to me, sometimes. Both are enthusiastic about tennis. That's what counts I guess. They both belong in this class.

Martha and Marty arrive ten minutes after the class hour, always. The lesson had been explained and demonstrated and the class is positioned to drill. What to do with Martha and Marty? (Well, other than that.) They consider themselves "A" players, both with elevated opinions of their tennis prowess. They sniff askance at all this basic stuff. Two classes and they'll be gone. Too bad. They both really need this instruction. They should stay in this class.

Louis is a surprise. He started out looking klutzy. After some stroke progressions and accompanying drills he is looking pretty good. You can tell by just looking at a student's face when they've had enough words from the instructor and need time to work things out themselves. Louis is at that point and doing well. Way to go Louis.

Vaughn is the class hot shot. Everything is spin; serve, forehand, backhand, overhead, drop shot. Our high school baseball team had a pitcher, also named Vaughn, who threw only curves. His pick-off throw to first base was a curve. Fielding a bunt, he threw a curve. It kept our first baseman loose. Our tennis Vaughn will continue to do things his way. Instruction rolls off his back. Nonetheless he paid for the class and he'll get what he paid for. He probably doesn't belong in this class.

Dennis doesn't have the classic stroke. He just gets the ball back, every time, without fail. Eventually he wins his matches. Would I change anything? Not on a bet. He doesn't really need this class, but he'll do well to stay.

Helen is intent on learning this game of tennis, but not too cool with constructive criticism. Her overhead is done with her non-dominant hand idle at her side. "For goodness sake, Helen, turn and point!"

Helen turns, her non-dominant palm oriented inward, only her middle finger extended. She elevates her hand slowly toward the instructor. As I noted, Helen is intent on learning tennis, but not too cool with constructive criticism.

Everyone learns something in The Tennis Class.

(Dum-de-dum dum)

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