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Opinion: Tennis in the winter is not for the faint of heart, but it is worth it

jillrose999 | Pixabay

I play tennis every winter and all winter — outdoors. In temperatures that range from slightly chilly to truly bone-chilling, my brothers, father, friends and I pitch up on our local town courts.

Why? Cost, mainly, but convenience as well. Courts can cost almost $100 an hour to rent and even if we could afford the fees, tennis clubs are not always open. Outside courts, however, are always open, even though the colder it gets, the more likely they are to be unoccupied. Little did we know that when a cop car patrolling the park put on his speaker to tell us we were crazy around January of 2019, we were actually ahead of the curve.

During COVID-19, many people don’t want to play indoor tennis or can’t due to state restrictions. Outdoor winter tennis definitely takes getting used to but if you wear the appropriate clothing, it is even more enjoyable than playing during the hot days of summer.

We often play early afternoon, in an effort to catch the warmest part of the day. I would pile on leggings under sweatpants, add multiple long sleeves and a coat. My friend Isabelle often wears a big sweater that our tennis cohort would call a “blanket.” We tease her about the sweater, but it is honestly smart to wear warm layers because you can always take them off. In fact, someone would often rip off a hoodie midplay and cast it to the side of the court, with yells of “uh-oh, he took off his sweatshirt, it’s getting serious” ringing out across the court.

When we arrive at the courts, I’m always slightly reluctant to climb out of the warm car to meet the cold air, so I like to wait for our friends to arrive. As we all exit our cars, I comment on how crazy it is that we are playing tennis in 30-degree weather with wind chills, and someone always agrees. But such is the life of tennis junkies. After 10 to 15 minutes of playing, I reach a comfortable body temperature and forget that outdoor tennis in mid-December is not the norm.

There is one main downside to playing in the cold, and it occurs when we have an odd number of players. That’s when things can get a little miserable. A rotation is made, and everyone has to sit out at some point. When it’s my turn, I begrudgingly sit down and brace myself for the bitter cold and relentless wind. The best I can do is try to distract myself by cheering on the players fortunate enough to still be on the court.

Other than sitting out, outdoor winter tennis is terrific — you get your tennis fix and it’s a fun experience. I play tennis for free while keeping up my training for playing at Baruch. My uncle is a mountain biker and he would often describe training outdoors in cold conditions as “Balboa style,” in reference to Rocky IV, a movie in which boxer Rocky Balboa trains outside during a relentless Russian winter.

I encourage anyone to get out there and play tennis Balboa style. You won’t regret it.

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