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A close-up of a tennis ball.

Why Playing Tennis Will Make You Smarter, Faster & Slightly More Evil

06/11/2014, 9:15am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Tennis players will know what I'm talking about...

It’s the crack of dawn.

“I shouldn’t be awake,” you think.

The courts are dead quiet.

“I’m not going to win,” you think.

There’s no one around except for you and your opponent.

… and, far away on the other side of the net, the other player.

The Battle Within

“It’s harder than it looks.”

“Who says it isn’t hard?”

Shelley Hoodspith and Yulia Van tell me they play tennis at the North Shore Winter Club between two and four times each week. When asked about what keeps them coming back to the court each day, there’s some initial hesitation.

In tennis, it would seem, the back and forth turmoil isn’t limited to just the tennis ball whizzing over the net.

No, in tennis, the struggle between the bright side and the dark side is always ongoing.

The Social Element

The Bright Side:

Yulia quickly comments on how she enjoys the social aspect of tennis. Playing tennis is an easy way to stay in touch with people. Playing against new people or pairing up for doubles games keeps things fresh and exciting.

The Dark Side:

Just as quickly though, Yulia’s thoughts about the positive environment on the courts is replaced by competitiveness and thoughts of learning the weaknesses of the players on the other side of the net.

“Once the match starts, I line up my opponents and think: ‘I have to find a way to beat them.’”

What was once a relaxed, fun atmosphere rapidly switches to a ruthless competition as players focus on how to exploit their opponent’s particular weaknesses.

The Physical Element

The Bright Side:

Playing tennis is good exercise. Finishing a match is a tough overall body workout. The lateral movement, the up-and-down leg motions and the stress on the arms and shoulders is physically draining.

The Dark Side:

“If you don’t perform, the sequence ends. It’s not like swimming or hockey where you can just catch back up to the play - when you miss a shot, the play ends and someone is probably mad at you.”

Shelley is being hard on herself, but anyone who believes tennis is an easy game isn’t paying attention. Tennis is a technical sport that demands precise movements and perfectly executed skills. Sometimes the ball lands nicely inside of your opponent’s court, other times it’s flying clear of a gigantic outdoor fence never to be seen again by human eyes.

The Mental Element

The Bright Side:

The psychological benefits of tennis are massive. Gripping a racquet and going toe to toe with an opponent teaches people to accept their own faults (literally). In tennis, you won’t get very far if you can’t forgive your own mistakes or those of your teammates. It takes great focus to master your shots and concentrate on ways to beat your opponents. The ball moves fast, so the greater a player’s focus, the greater their chance of hitting the ball to an opponent’s weak side.


Before your next serve, ask yourself: which is their weak side?

The Dark Side:

We all want to improve faster than we’re able to. This is true of sport, business and every day life.

Tennis is a frustrating game when you don’t improve as quickly as you’d like. It can be difficult to resist the urge to hang up the racquet, particularly when the game demands performance in front of the judgmental eyes of other players and worse: your own teammates. The pressure to physically perform that comes with playing tennis is difficult to ignore at the best of times

So, What Keeps You Coming Back?

The Bright Side:

Tennis is a sport that anyone at any age can play. Families play together, complete strangers compete against each other and new friendships are forged over a timeless common language of a stringed racquet smacking a small green ball around.

The Dark Side: 

“It’s addictive. I love tennis, but I’m not a natural, so I keep going back to overcome those obstacles,” says Yulia.

“It’s the challenge of the learning curve, of getting over the hurdles in front of me. You can’t learn anything fast if you want to learn it properly.”

At its core, tennis is a sport where players hit a ball back and forth over a net. Ironically, tennis is  also a sport where most of the back and forth occurs before that ball is even served. 

Whether it’s the seemingly pleasant social element, the rewarding physical element or the healthy mental element, choosing to play tennis means choosing between an internal struggle that’s always bubbling under just beneath the surface. 

So, which side are you taking?

The NSWC Summer Smash Tournament is August 10th - 16th. 

Register Now -> 


photo credit: Leonrw via photopin cc

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Tag(s): Home  Tennis  Fitness