Monday, January 21, 2019

Tennis makes lifetime friends

Dallas Aleman | Towpath Tennis Owner

It has been an exciting year at Towpath! We also saw the end of an era after 50 years of our air structures came down. So many tennis friends have been shocked by not seeing the bubbles anymore. We are stepping into a whole new era as we are about to start our 51st year of indoor tennis.

It hard to believe that 50 years ago I graduated from Akron Central in 1969. That was the year Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Woodstock took place, Nixon was president, the first ATM machine was introduced, and Rod Laver was number one in the world. In 1969, I entered the University of Akron, and joined the collegiate tennis team. Little did I know that all these years later, I could say that tennis has been my passion through it all. I’m so grateful for this game and all the acquaintances and friends I’ve made throughout those years from players across the country, and the world. Tennis is such a great sport for making lifetime friends. I want to share one story of this in the next generation of friendships.

Last month, I attended the induction of my son, Alex, into the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Athletic Hall of Fame. He was inducted with his life-long friend and doubles partner, Lou Konstan. The pictures say it all! The first picture was taken in 2001 at our annual Thanksgiving Tournament when the boys played against each other as young juniors in the 10s division. Lou and Alex are pictured with teaching professional Lois Bradford who also coached the boys during their high school tennis career.

What other sport can you meet for competition when you’re 7 years old, and still play at age 90? As we turn the page to 2019, I cannot encourage you enough to introduce a youngster or an adult to tennis, play more yourself, compete and make new friends.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Tennis and your life: Research proves rewards of physical activity


Dallas Aleman | Owner of Towpath Tennis Center

This fall, the Akron Beacon Journal has brought some interesting and disturbing information to the forefront. First, it has been reported that Ohio’s youth are growing more plumb. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says 18.6% of young people ages 10-17 are obese in the Buckeye State. That gives Ohio the sixth highest rate nationwide. The report quotes, “childhood obesity continues to be a major public health challenge with significant financial and societal implications." Jamie Bussel of the foundation says, “far too many young people in this country are facing increased chances of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, all due to a preventable condition." Scientists predicted that more than half of today’s children will be obese by age 35 if current trends continue.       

Marnie Watson is a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital and specializes in obesity medicine. She quotes, “we spend more time using our screens and devices a lot more today than we have in the past." I couple this with an article in the Wall Street Journal about an online gaming company, Epic Games. In July 2017, they introduced a new game called Fortnite.  As of this writing, the game has 125 million players and the company is doing a second round of financing and the company is now worth 15 billion dollars. It is an addictive game that draws kids as young as six years old into shooting zombies and people in a cartoon world. Not looking at even the merits of the game, I can’t imagine how many hours were spent by 125 million people playing the game. There must be a lot in Ohio if we are the 6th highest in obesity in the nation.

How does this relate to tennis? What if some of those players were out on the tennis court learning a lifetime sport that would give them all the rewards of challenging oneself with skills that don’t come easy. They can use all parts of their body’s physical and mental capabilities to compete against others. They would be building up a healthy lifestyle of exercise and having to deal with real people on the other side of the net and not zombies. We at Towpath that have been teaching tennis for over 40 years are noticing more and more youngsters that have low levels of concentration, unwillingness to commit to learning something difficult, and an inability to overcome adversity with perseverance. There is also a fear of failure and unwillingness to try to compete unless there is a guaranteed reward. I am sending out a word of caution to parents that are caving into letting their kids be online too much. Tennis, and other sports for that matter, have rewards that no online presence can give to children. Yes it takes more of a commitment from a parent to take a youngster to tennis programs, practices, and competition both time-wise and financially, but we are seeing an epidemic of what the alternative is.

Towpath member, Don Secard
Here at Towpath, we have another member, Don Secard, still playing tennis at age 91. What is the secret? Not only does Don live it, but he presented us with a new study done by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings from Sept. 4 of this year. Experts like to say the best form of exercise is whatever kind you’ll actually do. However, new research finds that people who combine exercise with their social lives may be at an advantage over solitary exercisers. The social interaction involved in partner and team sports may compound the plentiful benefits of physical activity, adding more years to your life than solo exercise. Tennis, badminton and soccer are all better for longevity than cycling, swimming, jogging or gym exercise.   

The research goes on: “for both mental and physical well-being and longevity, we’re understanding that our social connections are probably the single most important feature of living a long, healthy, happy life,” says study co-author Dr. James O’Keefe a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Mid-American Heart Institute. “If you are interested in exercising for health and longevity and well-being, perhaps the most important feature of your exercise regimen is that it should involve a play date.”

Tennis is a sport for all ages. It involves every muscle of the body and focuses our mind to concentrate in overall engagement of mind and body together to achieve results. Tennis is more than lifting weights, stretching, or getting our heart rates up--it was the number one sport for longevity. He says, “tennis is intensely interactive, at every point you’re talking, it’s just a very natural way to emotionally bond with people, besides getting your exercise.”

Tennis came out on top in the research. Compared with sedentary people, those who reported playing tennis as their main form of exercise could expect to add 9.7 years to their life span, followed by badminton (6.2 years), soccer (4.7 years), cycling (3.7 years), swimming (3.4 years), jogging (3.2 years), calisthenics (3.1 years) and health-club activities (1.5 years).

Towpath Member, Don Secard, is living testimony of what having a regular “play date” can do for you. His tennis is physical, mental and social, and he enjoys his play dates at Towpath. As I write this, I wonder what our coming generation of seniors will be like. I do know this, tennis has its rewards and they are many, however, tennis is not easy. So parents consider experience, wisdom and what you are modeling and teaching your youngsters about life. The internet has made things easier in many ways, but has it made things better in a real meaningful way? Let’s tell the story to your family, children and friends. Tennis can help you get fit, have fun, and make friends, which all add up to something that you cannot put a price tag on. But if you do it, you will have lifelong rewards in every one of the categories of fitness, fun and friends. What more could you want from an activity or sport? Congratulations Don on your milestone and letting us know the secret. You are addicted to something that is real with people on the other side of the net and not zombies.                                               

Monday, October 8, 2018

Dunlop CV series racquet review

Keenen Lambert | Towpath Tennis Contributor | Copley High School Varsity Tennis Player

Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 Tennis Racquet
What a great racquet for today's players! This racquet combines the need for speed, spin, and power that is sought after by many players today. It's a great racquet for those who like to move around the court and play both baseline and net rallies. It's solid enough to allow you to produce great amounts of power by swinging through the ball, while maintaining excellent accuracy. The Srixon Revo CV 3.0 weighs 10.6 oz, offering a great medium for those looking for a racquet on the heavier side that you can still swing through the ball with great speed. The touch at the net is not something this racquet is known for, but it makes fairly good placement at all areas of the court. Also, the Srixon Revo CV 3.0 does a great job of letting you attack the ball easily, while generating spin.
Summary: If your looking for an all around racquet that will allow you to accelerate the racquet through your shot with ease, then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 is for you. 

Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 5.0 Tennis Racquet
Baseline players will love this racquet! The Srixon Revo CV 5.0 combines two different areas not often found in one racquet. The 9.9 oz frame is definitely head heavy, allowing you not only to hit with precision and speed, but also with the 102 sq. inches head size it provides a larger target zone on your strings giving you a decent shot on any off-centered connection. It has a solid swing-through with ease while letting you generate the power. The placement and control are good on all areas of the court, but the lighter weight of the racquet will come into effect when at the net, as the Srixon Revo CV 5.0 will give way easier on a volley. Swinging for power on serves is very easy, and the 16x19 string pattern allows for effortless spin generation. This racquet is very user-friendly and allows an advancing player to add spin and pace to their strokes.
Summary: If you're a competitive player who wants to have a little more room for error with immense amounts of spin, easily generated power, and accuracy then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 5.0 is for you. 

Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F Tennis Racquet
Having trouble hitting the ball with power while on the run? The Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F allows you to hit the ball with spin and pace while still moving latterly on the court. Not as solid on the swing-through as other racquets, but it does allows you to swing faster. You'll expect quicker reactions on the return of serve as well as when rallying harder shots from the opponent. At 11.2 oz with a very headlight frame, the Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F is perfect for intermediate players. It has great touch and control at the net, and basic touch and control at the baseline. Because this feels like a lighter racquet when hitting lots of volleys from the net, the racquet will definitely give where your wrist will take some of the impact.
Summary: If you're looking for a racquet that helps you return serves with ease and produces great power and spin on the move, then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F is for you.

Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F LS Tennis Racquet
This racquet produces power! Just plain and simple, the Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F LS is for the rising player or intermediate player that wants to produce a ton of power when they can't produce it themselves. The 16x19 string pattern also creates easy production of spin. At 10.7 oz with the headlight frame, it is definitely the lightest of the 6 Dunlop racquet demos Towpath has to offer, but that light of a racquet might just give you the edge you need. Control is not bad, but the quickness that you get on the return of serve and on volleys is the signature feature of this racquet. Also, because of its light weight it will give at the net and allow you to swing through the ball faster. This quick action swinging will give a player quick action targeting to place the ball exactly where they want it on the court.
Summary: If you want a quicker reaction racquet with a lot of power then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CV 3.0 F LS is for you. 

Dunlop Srixon Revo CX 4.0 Tennis Racquet
The Srixon Revo CX 4.0 is exact and predictable. It allows most players to generate power while having accuracy, spin, and placement. Fairly firm from the baseline, while also holding firm at the net against even the toughest volleys. This 10 oz racquet is right in the middle of the spectrum, which allows for great control and a 'middle of the road' approach to a tennis racquet with a little bit of everything: spin, control, accuracy, power, stiffness, touch and placement. I would love to hit with this racquet at the net all day long. Its great for those players who especially love the net, but is also impressive for full-court players with available quickness when hitting on the run, while also staying controlled. The thick frame allows for a more solid feel for all your shots, whether its a ground-stroke from the baseline, a slice from mid-court, or a volley at the net, this racquet won't let you down!
Summary: If you're looking for an all-court racquet with literally anything you can think of as a player with solid strokes and available power, spin and accuracy, and control and touch, then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CX 4.0 is for you.

Dunlop Srixon Revo CX 2.0 LS Tennis Racquet
Control is the name of the game when you refer to this racquet. At 10.2 oz, the Srixon Revo CX 2.0 LS generates power for the intermediate player with fantastic touch and control. With this amount of control, you will have an incredible tool for a confident game. The lighter weight gives you an easy way to generate racquet speed, and the 16x19 string pattern allows for easy production of spin. Net play is remarkably easy! The Srixon Revo CX 2.0 LS is very maneuverable so you can never get caught off guard. Also, for a light-weight racquet, it still has a thick frame that allows players to easily redirect the shots of your opponent, and allows for generation of decent pace and a confident serve. A great performance racquet with easy placement.
Summary: If you want incredible placement and control on all areas of the court then the Dunlop Srixon Revo CX 2.0 LS is for you. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Gamma string review

Keenen Lambert | Towpath Tennis Contributor | Copley High School Varsity Tennis Player

Towpath staff member, Keenen Lambert,
demos the Gamma Gut 16 and Gamma
Jet 16L strings. 
Our very own Towpath staff member, Keenen Lambert, hit the courts to experiment some of Gamma's newest and most buzzed about strings. The Gamma Gut 16 and Gamma Jet 16L combine the best of innovation and new technology to improve racquet playability and overall comfort. Check out what he has to say about each string and what it can do for your game!

GAMMA GUT 16 - Control and Power, with a fantastic amount of TOUCH
It's back! Trying the Gamma Gut is a must. This string has been relaunched to make a premium string that is great for all levels of players. A beginner will find that it brings an easy amount of control and power. More advanced players will find that the string will provide incredible control from all areas of the court, decent power, and a connection to the ball which not many strings have. You can actually have that nice feeling during your stroke. When you put your power and combine it with this string, you will have some incredible pop. This string would be a great string for a light racquet and would be perfect for those looking for a hybrid cross string.

Gamma JET 16L - OUTSTANDING CONTROL, INCREDIBLE SPIN, and EXTRA DURABILITY
This string is perfect for most levels of players. For a durable string that will last, has outstanding control, and a lot of spin I would choose the Gamma JET 16L. This Co-Poly string will have you hitting with the perfect combination of power and control. This string is perfect for those who are looking for a string that will last and still gives amazing results! This string is a twisted string that is shaped to give you extra grip on the ball, which in turn provides an amazing amount of spin.

Next time you're due for a restringing (rule of thumb is to string as many times a year as you play a week; ie. 2x/week, 2x/year), ask your pro or our front desk about Gamma's newest strings and see if it gives you the optimum power/control you're looking for!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tennis racquet balance explained-finally!

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Serving as Northeast Ohio's largest tennis pro shop, we certainly see our share of players coming in looking for a new tennis racquet. The idea of purchasing a racquet (especially if you plan on investing in something of value) can sometimes be a daunting process when figuring out what works best for your game. There's a few things to consider when looking for a racquet: weight, balance, feel and overall comfort. For some players, just demoing a bunch of racquets will narrow down what you like, but how would you like to eliminate some of the field work by narrowing down what you want to try before you step foot on court?

Many a time we have players that don't realize how detrimental it is to have the correct racquet weight distribution, so check out below what racquet balance entails and then you'll be one step closer to choosing "the one."

This Wilson Triad XP3 is 3 points head heavy, providing 
players with a whole ton of power.
Head Heavy: POWER. What makes a racquet head heavy? Rest the throat of the racquet on your finger to see where your racquet swings. If your racquet tips more toward the head then its considered head heavy. The primary feature of a head heavy racquet is it provides more power. Here's how: Place a ball in a tube sock (or towel) and swing it at your side. The weight at the end of that sock should feel like its guiding your arm back and forth and will gain momentum as you continue on. Now if you spun that sock in a loop by your side and let go, your sock and ball would go flying. As you make contact with the ball with a head heavy racquet, the extra weight will create greater force at impact as well as keep the head stable from twisting, providing more stability (so less rimmers). Head heavy racquets are popular for beginning players as well as senior players needing some more oomph in their shot.

This Wilson Pro Staff is a Roger Federer favorite. His
signature racquet sits 12 points head light giving him 
optimum control over his shots.
Head Light: CONTROL. Head Light racquets, or what I like to refer to as handle heavy, are incredibly popular among players because they provide more control and accuracy, and are essentially easier on the arm due to reduced vibration and shock as you hit. Recreating our little experiment when demonstrating the head heavy racquet, this time reverse your tennis ball sock puppet and hold the ball in your hand and let the sock dangle. This will emulate the feel of a head light racquet. Notice you have greater swing speed and control in your motion. That reversal of weight distribution in your hand allows you to generate your own power and precision when striking the ball, thus having more overall control. Head Light racquets are popular among Intermediate to Advanced players as well as the pros on tour. It has also proven to be a savior for players with tennis elbow or other arm related issues.
This Babolat Pure Drive Lite sits -4 points head light
from equal balance providing ample control with an 
edge in power. 


Even Balanced: Power AND Control. You can have the best of both worlds! When your racquet sits perfectly(ish) level on your finger, you will find a happy medium between the power and stability of a head heavy racquet, while maintaining control and reducing the vibration and shock you'd find in a head light racquet. Even balanced racquets are popular for their versatility--almost anyone can play with them. The only drawback is it could play a tad 'tame' for someone looking to add more to their game. This is a great racquet choice for players still fine-tuning their strokes from the Beginner to Advanced level. It also serves as an excellent option for juniors.

Having this simple knowledge of tennis racquet balance can make all the difference when choosing your next weapon of choice. If you need additional help, ask a teaching pro or one of our front desk staff to find the best racquet for you.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The worst shots to get and how to hit them

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Whether you're a seasoned USTA player or just playing recreational tennis, there's always that type of player or a particular shot that will drive you nutso, to the point of thinking you suck at tennis and should just quit. This isn't true. You just need a better plan of attack, so with these tips when that dreaded shot comes again your body will just react.

Heavy Topspin 

What you get - Shots that pop off the court with so much spin your straining to reach them or struggling to return the ball with the same amount of power.

What you do - Catch it early or back up. Have you ever noticed pros on TV standing behind the baseline when rallying with their opponent? Many a time players stay back with heavy topspin hitters to gauge the depth and direction of the ball. You don't want to catch the ball over and over at its high point--your shoulder will fall off. Another option is cutting the heavy topspin shot off while on the rise. I was taught this when struggling to return a heavy topspin serve, and not only did it work, but I got up to the net that much quicker!

Rafa Nadal races to scoop up a drop shot in the 2010 US
Open.
Drop Shot

What you get - A ball that drops short over the net, or worse a ball that dinks the top of the net onto your side of the court.

What you do - I have a love/hate relationship with this shot. If you're not hitting deep enough or have a few unlucky breaks, opponents love to throw in a good drop shot. I love them because I love the challenge of getting to the ball, but the reason why they are just the WORST to hit is because its an easy shot to blow. We either try to do too much with the shot or we rush into it while sprinting for the ball. If you can take just the slightest moment to slow down then you'll have control of the shot and can place it where you want (push it deep or lob). If you're rushing in or the ball is too close to the net, then your only option might be to scoop it back.

Slicey Dicey

What you get - You set up for your shot only to watch it veer away from you so instead of hitting a solid return, you're chasing down the ball or rimming it. Or, you ARE able to set up for the shot but because of the heavy backspin it 'dies' on your racquet.

What you do - I love to throw in a slice to throw off my opponent, but to be on the receiving end is not so fun. If there's a lot of spin, the ball will begin curving on its way over so you can anticipate where its going to land by split-stepping before you set up to hit. Split-stepping will give you that extra moment to prepare for a shot, so if you're not doing it already ask your coach to help you practice it. If the slice isn't as dicey (or you're at the net) then sometimes all you need to do is strongly push the ball back. When you return with something too fancy (or my fave--slice a slice), many a times it will end up a dud. Simple is best.

Justine Henin can only awkwardly block the shot in this
body jam.
Body Shot

What you get - A ball that comes right at your face, body or feet.

What you do - 1) You can get the hell out of the way--it might go out! 2) If you don't already have your racquet out in front of you in ready position, then its time to start doing so. But, how would you like to not only block the ball back, but block back a thoughtful shot (lob for instance). Next time you have your racquet up in ready position prep it for a backhand, because guess what? Your racquet is already in place for a defensive block and you won't feel as jammed up.

Floaters

What you get - Whether its a floater coming to you at the net or the baseline, a ball with no pace is just the worst! This is especially true when you suddenly get a floater in the midst of all these fast-paced shots, since you'll either go for the kill shot and blow it out, or panic and dump it in the net.

What you do - In case you haven't noticed, footwork counts for a lot. When you have a floater coming at you, you have more time to get your feet into position so take advantage of taking that extra step needed to attack the ball. Also, a ball with no pace will need that extra oomph in return so try brushing up on the ball more or slice it back.

Without a doubt, the most important skill-set in majority of these tricky shots is footwork, patience, fast hands and then practice, practice, practice. One thing is for sure, these shots might be among the worst to get but it'll feel pretty sweet when you're able to hit them effectively.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

How to tune out on court distractions

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Have you ever been in a match where you've been completely in-tuned, focused, and driven when suddenly some clown comes onto the court next to you and starts pulling the curtains and setting up the ball machine? Absolute mental chaos! What's really frustrating is so many of us are pretty good at tuning out silly distractions: music, arguments, players tumbling on the court--the works. So why is it that some external distractions throw us completely for a loop? And how do you manage to pull yourself together and stop the mental downward spiral?

A streaker prances across Centre Court before the men's 1996
Wimbledon final. Talk about a distraction!
On court distractions come in all forms; lessons next to you, viewer chatter, grunting, kids squealing, power outages, water leaks, rain, wardrobe malfunctions, bad string job, lights shattering overhead (yes, that happened), fist fights (also happened). I can go on and on and on--and on and on. The thing is its these distractions that test your mental strength on the court, which can be the difference between a win and loss. The real test is figuring out how to refocus quickly after one of these disruptions attempts to shatter your attention, so here are some quick tips on how to do just that!
  • Drink water and stay hydrated. Being even a little dehydrated will make you feel tired and sluggish, which can make it possible to become easily distracted. 
  • Get enough sleep the night before a match. Lack of sleep makes you tired, irritable and completely disrupts your ability to focus. 
  • Be aware. Yes that person who's obnoxiously cheering for your opponent from the sidelines is annoying the crap out of you, but now that you've acknowledged it you can now regroup and focus back on the game. What tends to happen when we come onto the court without being aware of say darker lighting or that there's a cheering squad for your opponents, is you'll start to notice these things say while waiting on return of serve--you know, moments that really call for your full attention.  
  • Use a cue word, "Calm. Focus. Strong. Control. Breathe." This is actually one of my favorite ways to regroup after a distraction. Of course it only works when you remember to use it, so this is something you'll want to continually repeat before points so that at moments when you really need to be alert, these cue words will eventually become a light-switch to tuning out all the static intruding your mind. 
  • Plan ahead. When you make a game day plan/routine, you are actually organizing your thoughts which helps focus your attention to what's relevant to your game instead of distracting thoughts. 
Like in life, there are some things that are going to be out of your control. Sure, you can try to tell the club manager to cancel all other fitness classes and drills during your tennis match, but I'm not sure how much headway you'll get with that. Instead, redirect your attention to the things you CAN control. I love blaming a bad match on anything but me, but really I knew I should've gotten a better night sleep or I should've left for the match earlier rather than freak for being late. Hey, we're human. The point is have a plan of attack on how to avoid becoming a victim to the next distraction, whatever it may be. So next time you see that ball machine being rolled out onto the next court, you can just tell yourself, "bring it on!"