I’ve never played tennis before, but contemplated learning when I moved to Chicago. No one I knew when I lived in Missouri or Kentucky played tennis, and it’s generally considered an “elitist” sport. Something for rich people. However, I now find myself running in “higher” social circles than I have for most of my life. I come from a lower-middle-class background and have always lived in small towns. Now that I finished my master’s degree and have a professional job in a major city, I’m surrounded mostly by people from a much higher socioeconomic background than myself. Tennis is a very popular sport among the people I work with.
When I was younger, I played soccer and softball. I always loved playing sports, but unfortunately it’s very difficult post-college to get enough people together for a pickup game of either soccer or softball. I also haven’t played softball “for real” in years, and have lost most of my skills. Soccer still comes back to me reasonably well, since I played pickup games often in high school and college. Lately I’ve realized that I would like to have a social sport that can be played with a more reasonable number of participants. Since so many people I know here play tennis, it seems like a logical choice.
Another factor in this decision is the fact that my 15 year old brother, who started high school last fall, is interested in learning to play. He plays soccer and basketball in the fall and winter respectively, but doesn’t have a spring sport. His school is currently building tennis counts, and expects to offer tennis for the first time next year. So he is strongly considering picking this up as a spring sport. I am 11 years older than my brother, so having another activity that we can bond over when I’m in town visiting would be awesome. We get along amazingly well giving our age difference, but it can never hurt to have another activity to enjoy together!
All of this considered, I signed up for tennis lessons about a month ago. There is a well-known tennis club near my apartment, and they offer small group lessons. I signed up for one month of lessons, and tonight I had my third lesson. Signing up for lessons included a one month temporary membership at the club, which means I’ve been able to use the practice lanes. I’ve been trying to go at least once a week to use the practice lanes in between lessons, and will probably try to go twice this week since it is the final week. They also do two “tennis parties” for everyone taking classes during the month. These “parties” consist of two hours of cardio tennis followed by one hour of mingling/socializing. If you decide to join the club after the class is over, there is a $200 initial fee, plus $105/month for membership fees. During June, July, and August you can reserve courts for “free,” but during the other 9 months it costs about $40 to reserve a court for 2 hours. Needless to say, I don’t plan on joining right now.
The classes I’m taking right now cost $105 for 4 classes. One class per week for four weeks, plus you get the “temporary membership” (that doesn’t include using the courts, only the practice lanes and gym). I was unsure at first about whether this would be worth the money, but I’m incredibly glad I decided to take the classes. So far I’m having a great time, and hopefully learning more than I think.
Taking classes has also led to some other less tangible results. My goal word for this year is “Connect.” So far I’ve exchanged contact information with four other women who are taking the classes, and we plan to get together to continue playing tennis this summer when the city parks open their courts. I’ve also met a few other people that I haven’t had a chance to exchange contact info with yet, but hopefully I’ll make a few more connections at the cardio tennis party later this week. I’ve had a hard time making friends in Chicago since work has been crazy and I’ve basically been hibernating for the winter. Meeting new people is one of my goals for this spring and summer, so this is definitely helping with that tremendously! My boss took tennis lessons a few years ago at the club, and she highly recommended it to me when I mentioned my interest. She is very athletic and was excited when I mentioned tennis – she offered a lot of advice and told me about a few other clubs and also mentioned where some free outdoor tennis courts are near our office in the suburbs. When I started lessons, she gave me one of her racquets to use while I’m learning. She also asks me regularly how my lessons are going, and is thrilled that I’m enjoying them and meeting people that I can play tennis with this summer.
When I was younger I was always incredibly competitive, and didn’t do things “for fun” very often. I didn’t like doing things that I wasn’t good at, since I was so competitive – I like to win! It’s been a new experience signing up for “Beginner” classes, acknowledging that I don’t know what I’m doing, and being okay with learning slowly. Overall I feel like the $105 I paid for these classes has been an excellent investment. I’ve learned a lot about myself, am excited about learning new things (and can even see myself taking lessons for other activities in the future “for fun!”), and have really pushed myself to use this opportunity to meet new people and start building a social circle in Chicago!