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Friday, January 27, 2023

Tennis group benefits both physical and social fitness

Chilly winter temperatures mean outdoor tennis courts typically aren’t put to good use but it doesn’t mean the game isn’t alive and well locally. About 20 minutes from Pottstown, Hillcrest Tennis and Field Sports in Exeter Township offers six indoor courts to provide those with a love of the game an opportunity to keep it up when extreme weather is more apt to interrupt regular playtime.

Gail Deckman, at net, and Lisa Hvizda, serving, during a recent doubles match at Hillcrest. (Courtney Diener-Stokes / For MediaNews Group)
Gail Deckman, at net, and Lisa Hvizda, serving, during a recent doubles match at Hillcrest. (Courtney Diener-Stokes / For MediaNews Group)

Every Monday, from September through May, you can find a game of doubles on Court 3 made up of Janice Chappie, 77, of Fleetwood; Lisa Hvizda, 67, of Sinking Spring; Catherine Delcamp, 78, of Fleetwood; and Gail Deckman, 65, also from Sinking Spring.

“Tennis saved my life,” said Deckman, who explained the game provided her with a necessary outlet during the time she was raising a child with special needs. “Now I have all these friends.”

Deckman was first introduced to tennis in her 40s when her daughter began taking lessons and someone suggested she try it out. Hvizda, a retired teacher, began playing in the 1970s when she was around age 14; Delcamp, also a retired teacher, started when she was in high school; and Chappie who is a retired tennis instructor and current author of children’s books, began playing at Hillcrest in 1980s when it was known by its previous name: Vantage Point.

“I met all three ladies here through contract tennis,” said Chappie, who, along with the others, holds a contract with Hillcrest, which entitles them to discounted weekly court time from September through May. Chappie was subbing in for various games of doubles when a new group of doubles began to take shape, representing this group of players she gets together with on Mondays.

Janice Chappie, at net, and Catharine Delcamp, serving, during a recent doubles match at Hillcrest. (Courtney Diener-Stokes / For MediaNews Group)
Janice Chappie, at net, and Catharine Delcamp, serving, during a recent doubles match at Hillcrest. (Courtney Diener-Stokes / For MediaNews Group)

At one point, everyone in the group played competitive tennis through the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Today, the game serves the purpose of an outlet for physical activity and more.

“It’s the camaraderie and being with other women,” Hvizda said of one of the main draws to keeping up her game. “When I broke my arm on the court everyone was so supportive.”

All of the ladies play tennis three times a week with various friends forming different groups of doubles each play day, but they don’t limit their daily physical activity to the court. Delcamp and Deckman add in walking; Chappie bikes and walks; and Hvizda enjoys three other activities.

“I do Pilates and kayaking during the summer,” she said. “I also play pickleball.”

Like Deckman, they all seem to enjoy the social aspect.

Catharine Delcamp, a tennis player at Hillcrest, with tennis instructor Ira Thomas Watts, III. (Courtney Diener-Stokes / For MediaNews Group)
Catharine Delcamp, a tennis player at Hillcrest, with tennis instructor Ira Thomas Watts, III. (Courtney Diener-Stokes / For MediaNews Group)

“It’s uplifting,” said Chappie of her time at Hillcrest. “ If you have had a rough life emotionally, it is a good place to come.”

When the gals get together to play, winning isn’t the end goal of each match.

“We try to play well and we keep score, but the number doesn’t really matter,” Hvizda said.

There is one aspect of the game she has become a bit leery of as she ages.

“You have to be more careful of not falling,” Hvizda said, adding that she broke her arm while playing due to a fall on the court.

After playing their 90 minutes of tennis, the group has the option of spending time in the viewing/social lounge area that features leather couches and some high-top tables. This was the recent location of their Sip & Hit holiday social event coordinated by Ira Thomas Watts, III, 69, of Upper Pottsgrove, who is one of seven tennis instructors at Hillcrest.

“People can come and play and have some libations afterward,” Watts said.

Watts, who retired as a trooper with the state police in 2007, took up tennis at age 42 when his girlfriend at the time introduced him to the sport. Today, most of his time on the court is spent coaching.

“I like to see players evolve from just hitting the ball to strategy and improving on their different strokes,” he said. “I like to see the joy on their faces when they have a really good session.”

Lisa Hvizda serves a point at Hillcrest Tennis and Field Sports. (Courtney Diener-Stokes / For MediaNews Group)
Lisa Hvizda serves a point at Hillcrest Tennis and Field Sports. (Courtney Diener-Stokes / For MediaNews Group)

In addition to instructing at Hillcrest, Watts is a tennis coach at The Hill School in Pottstown, as well as Immaculata University in Chester County where his two sons attend and play tennis.

“I’m going to go and pick them up to play now since they are home on college break,” he said. “They want me to drill them.”

Watts, who is clearly one of the social butterflies at Hillcrest given his warm interactions with players he runs into at the lounge, enjoys seeing the diversity represented at the club.

“I’m a people person and I like to see people coming here from all different backgrounds,” he said. “You get all nationalities and races and social standings – it’s a big mixture of people.”

He also sees that the social aspect of the game invites new friendships.

“People that might not have met socially or any other way will come here and that might be the only time they see each other and they might not otherwise have been friends,” Watts said.

Those of all ages can get started in tennis and you don’t have to be a member of the club to participate in a tennis clinic or reserve court time.

“The more people who play, the lower the cost,” he said, referencing playing doubles will make it less expensive than singles. “If you become a member you get a discount and if you get a contract, you get a discount.”

Hillcrest offers a weekly fundamentals clinic.“It’s for any adults who want to start playing,” he said. “We also offer beginning classes for kids as young as 4 to 5 years old.”

For information on tennis clinics for adults and children contact Hillcrest Tennis and Field Sports, 4401 Perkiomen Avenue, Reading, at www.hillcresttennisandfieldsports.com or call 610-779-7900. Hillcrest offers a weekly fundamentals clinic for adults and beginning classes for children. Open court time and private lessons are also available. 

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