Thursday, July 23, 2020

Social distancing with tennis

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Tennis is ranked as a 2 on the COVID-19 risk scale.
"6 ft is good. 78 ft is better!" That has become the motto here at Towpath Tennis. While we are 4 months into this ‘new normal’ and have yet to see the light on the other side of the tunnel, we continue to work toward what we can control in what has been a grim situation. Covid-19 has taken its toll on small businesses and communities alike, but instead of allowing it to get the best of our physical and mental well-being, people are getting creative in figuring out how to still live an active life--just in a new way. For the tennis community, we are incredibly fortunate to have a safe place to do just that.

Tennis is a low risk sport that everyone can safely enjoy due to a number of factors, the most obvious being that players are 78 ft apart! According to the Texas Medical Association, on a scale of 1-10, tennis is ranked as a 2 and is considered low-risk during Covid-19. Activities were ranked by physicians from the TMA COVID-19 Task Force and the TMA Committee on Infectious Diseases. Whether you're figuring out how to 're-enter' the game or you're looking for something new to do for you and the family (where there's no-contact), tennis is for sure the social-distancing sport for you.

How to play tennis (and stay active) during a pandemic:
  • Take your temperature before leaving the house.πŸ€’ And for the love of, stay home if you're not feeling well.
  • If playing inside, wear a mask (at least in the clubhouse).😷
  • A tennis court measures 78 ft x 36 ft. Players hitting singles will have PLENTY of room to hit without any physical contact.πŸ€— Even when playing doubles, you can safely give yourself the 6-foot minimum distance between you and your partner (think of your arm + racket spaced between).πŸ’ͺ πŸŽΎ
  • Bring 2️ (or more) cans of tennis balls to play with. Depending on the number of players on the court, you can all have a designated can to serve with. Label them if you have to. For any tennis balls that aren’t yours, you can simply kickπŸ‘Ÿ or roll it back with your racket. 
  • Don’t switch sides and bring your own water.πŸ’¦
  • Play outside.️  Even though we have carefully thought out a safe environment to play indoors (see our safety guidelines here), players can opt to use our outdoor courts instead. We do hold some clinics outside and players are welcome to request the outdoor courts for private lessons.
  • Take a private lesson. Not sure you feel comfortable playing in a group drill session? Private lessons are available by appointment all day, every day!πŸ™Œ
  • Yes kids classes are running! I know you parents are dying to get the kids out of the house, and we're just as eager to see them out on the courts. There is 1 instructor/4 kids on every court. Markings on the ground keep the kids spaced out (and keep them from hitting each other).πŸ‘§πŸ‘¦
  •  Use the ball machine. You can still play tennis without a single person crowding your space.πŸ™…πŸ½‍
We've been planning, testing and fine-tuning our safety practices for a couple of months now, because we care about our tennis community and their well-being. We want our players to feel they are in a safe environment where all they need to worry about is the next point. We've already received positive feedback. Players are just grateful to be able to live an active life while still staying socially-distant playing their favorite sport.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

10 Fun facts you never knew about the Australian Open

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor
The Australian Open is well underway and being an avid tennis fan, I’ve been more curious in how the first tournament of the Grand Slam season became the spectacle it is today. When did the Australian Open start? How did it become one of tennis’ largest tournaments in the world? With fans across the globe flocking down south or tuning into late night TV (at least in the U.S), take a moment on the next changeover to check out these fun facts about the Australian Open. You might be surprised how much you never knew about the Open down under. 
  1. The Australian Open (formerly known as Australian Championship) was first introduced in 1905 and was held in a cricket field. The Australian Open did not have its current title until 1969.
  2. Earlier the game was not only played across several cities in Australia but was also played in New Zealand in 1906 and 1912. From 1987 onward it was played in Melbourne.
  3. In 1988, the tournament made its first change by introducing hard courts instead of grass ones.
  4. Due to its distant geographical location, the Australian Open did not have foreign players until the year 1946 when several US players came to Australia by plane. Some of the recognized players who became popular from this event include Rod Laver, Margaret Smith and Roy Emerson.
  5. The tournament was not held between 1916 and 1918, or 1940 and 1945, due to international conflicts happening at the time.
  6. During the 80's, the tournament was held on the last week of November into the first week of December. That was the setup until 1985. After that year, the games have since been held in the middle of January starting in 1987. Because of the new schedule, there was no Australian Open in 1986.
  7. Martina Hingis is the youngest woman to win the Australian Open at the age of 16.
  8. Ken Rosewall holds the record for both the youngest and the oldest man to win the Australian Open. He became the youngest winner of the competition in 1953 at 18 years old and became the oldest champion of the tournament at 37 years old.
  9. The 2007 tournament is regarded as the hottest playing season which recorded unbelievable high temperatures well over 100 degrees F. Many players had to be put on some intravenous drips in order to cope up with the hot weather conditions in Melbourne.
  10. In 1988, Rod Laver Arena opened making the Australian Open the first Grand Slam to feature a retractable roof. The Open currently has 3 retractable roofs.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

What is MultiBall and why does my child need to try it?

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor
Tired of your kids glued to their phones or spending way too many hours playing video games? We’ve got a solution to help get your kids up and exercising in no time, thanks to a little invention called MultiBall. A Munich-based company, Fun With Balls, has found a way to combine physical activity with gamification creating a fun atmosphere for those immersed in this culture of gaming and technology. More exciting, Towpath Tennis is the 2nd club in the country that is operating one of these systems!

What is MultiBall? 
The MultiBall wall at Towpath Tennis.
Imagine a backboard wall with projected games displayed on it to hit targets on. That’s it! Simple (yet very complex). This award-winning gaming console consists of a console and a sensor frame, which detects ball impacts. The Towpath Tennis staff actually created the wall itself to fit inside the frame and had to integrate and work with German technology to pull off this one-of-a-kind experience.

The drive for the Fun With Balls company was for them to quit fighting the technology takeover, but to combine it with sports to give it the cool and fun factor it deserves. MultiBall creates a playful space to enable kids (and people of all ages and skill levels) to exercise while focused on playing and interacting with digital games designed for their sport of choice…duh tennis!

To test out MultiBall, you can now reserve time in ½ hour increments for $25. Check out what’s in store for the future of tennis for our kids!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

What's your Universal Tennis Rating?

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Do you know what your Universal Tennis Rating is? You might already have a Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) and just not know it! EVERY tennis player can have a UTR. Whether you’re a league player, recreational, junior, college player, or a tennis pro playing the circuit, UTR is available for everyone and will provide the most accurate measurement of a player’s true skill level. Sooo what is it? How do I look up my UTR? How does it work? Also, because I’m sure for those USTA players out there you might be thinking, I have a USTA rating so why would I want to know my UTR? 

Because its universal. Because its affordable. Because it can accurately match up players more competitively. UTR embraces and rates every type of player out there, not just those with a USTA membership. So you can now accurately compare your skills across the globe with those at any age, experience-level and gender. 

Unlike the USTA that uses a rating scale of 1.0-beginner to 7.0-advanced to gauge your playing level, UTR has a rating scale of 1.00 to 16.50. Why the big scale? Because there is a wide variety of players out there! You have your beginners, intermediate players (recreation/league players fall anywhere from 2.00-5.00 on average), high school players, tournament players, collegiate players (typical range is 9.00-13.00), and top-professionals (Roger Federer has a 16.14 UTR) all being rated along one scale. If you’ve played any sanctioned tournaments or are in any adult leagues such as the USTA, then you may already have a UTR and can simply claim your profile by searching for your name. If you’re brand-spanking new to competitive tennis, you get rated by posting a score from a casual hit or by playing recreational matches and poof, you have a UTR! Your UTR will become more reliable after approximately 5 matches, and then will continually update after each subsequent match.

The goal of @MyUTR is both simple and ambitious: measure every player’s ability along one scale.

So how does it work after you get rated? UTR calculates down to the 1/100 of a point and lets you know exactly where you stand by being super transparent with letting you know how its algorithm works. The UTR algorithm calculates your match rating and the match weight and averages the matches you've played to come up with a player’s UTR. What this means is it looks at the match rating (numeric level) and calculates based on how you perform vs. the expectation of the match. So if you're expected to win a close match against an opponent but end up dominating 6-1, 6-1, then your match rating goes up. Even if you are expected to lose, but then end up having a closer match than what was expected, your UTR will go up. Look at it as a win even though you didn't technically win! 

The match weight is actually pretty interesting because matches are weighed heavier on numerous accounts, such as playing an opponent that is closer in numeric rating than somebody 2 points above/below you, playing someone with a more reliable UTR which means they play often, and playing longer matches. A match format that is best of 2/3 sets has more weight than a match with a 3rd set tiebreak. So after looking at both your match rating and weight then voila! you get your new calculated UTR. Also, everything is in real-time. The system updates your rating after every match played (with the exclusion of mixed) within the last 12 months. That includes verified/sanctioned matches and tournaments or just a casual match at the park. 

Here’s my takeaway:  As a newbie to the UTR system I like it. It’s easy to get started, simple to track, and I like that it tracks your progress real-time. Yes, the USTA system is one of the best rating systems out there, because really what else was there to compare to before? The problem I see with tracking a player's level solely on the USTA rating system is we’ve become accustomed and groomed to compete based off of how we think it will affect our rating vs. going out there and competing to the best to our ability. Also, for some players I feel like it has become more of a status symbol. I’ve seen groups of friends break up based on ‘moving up or down’ in the world of USTA league tennis.  And that is why tracking your UTR instead can be so refreshing. We don't have to have this win or die mentality or that we have to "protect" our rating for whatever reason, but rather go out and compete often and win as many games as possible, because at the end of the day that is what makes you a better competitor.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Are you ready for a change?

Barbara Youel | Towpath Member Author of "First Serve", a plant-based cookbook with a tennis theme

The Game Changers in theaters 
Monday, September 16, 2019.
August, 2019.  It’s the annual summer break from scheduled tennis drills and matches. For me, it’s a time to take stock of my fitness, both mental and physical. The first of January may be the traditional day for resolutions, but I never feel moved to much action in the dead of winter. August, on the other hand, is a time of promise and anticipation of cooler temps and less humidity, the autumn holidays, (especially Thanksgiving), and a kind of positive energy that creates my kind of momentum. Fall Interclub and USTA leagues are just around the corner as well as chances to be more intentional and motivated during weekly drills at Towpath.

For a different kind of powerful motivator, you can also mark your calendars for the Monday, September 16 public release of the documentary, The Game Changers. I had the chance to see this in June at an Engine 2 Immersion event and highly recommend it if you are interested in improving your fitness for life, both on and off the courts. 

Executive producers James Cameron (Titanic), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton, Chris Paul, Rip Esselstyn and others headline the big names behind this film. I was glad to see that my favorite doctor, Michael Greger MD (author of “How Not to Die”), is the film’s scientific advisor. An excellent choice in my book!

Some of the team behind the highly-anticipated vegan documentary, 
The Game Changers. (Photo: Plant Based News)
This documentary follows the training and successes of various elite athletes who excel in tennis, weightlifting, bodybuilding, trail running, cycling, football, auto racing and more. To what do they owe their success? PLANTS! Not only have whole plant-based foods enhanced their performances, their recovery times have markedly improved too. Now, before you think that this is not for you – we are amateur club players, not professionals traveling the world with a nutritionist, physical therapist, hitting partner and coach – think again. The Game Changers is a fast-paced 88 minutes all focused on dispelling the myth that animal products are the key for athletic success. It’s for you and it’s for me and for all who want to be fit, active, perhaps pain-free and disease-free and oh yes, happy! See you at the movies!

(Towpath Tennis Member, Barb Youel, is the author of "First Serve: 40 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for a Year of Tennis Grand Slams & Club Matches", Lean Green Living LLC, 2017. Copies are available exclusively at Towpath Tennis Center for $16.95. You can order yours today at 330-928-8763 or stop in The Shop for your copy today.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Best Practices with the Ball Machine

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Have you heard of the phrase, “practice makes perfect?” How about, “perfect practice makes perfect?” If you're getting on court and hacking up some sloppy shots just because its a practice (guilty✋), then you're not making the practice perfect. Perfect practice is playing and executing shots as you would in a match setting. But I get it, some days when you're having a particularly bad day with say your backhand, it's difficult to work on it in the middle of a group lesson or drill. So instead, grab the perfect practice partner that will work tirelessly with you while happily putting up with all the junk you might hit—the ball machine! With the upcoming USTA season, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to aid in your quest in perfecting your practice by creating a list for ‘Best Practices with the Ball Machine.'

Best Practices with the Ball Machine

  • Make a plan before you get onto the court. Don’t just come out to hit and see what happens. Think about what you need to perfect; forehand, backhand, slice, top-spin, approach shot, overhead, volley, footwork—the ball machine will do it all.
  •  Don’t do too much in one setting. For instance, make a list of your weakest shots and focus on 1 or 2 that are giving you the most trouble. Then practice and repeat, repeat, repeat! Practice until you can confidently hit the shot over a few times in a row. Muscle memory has higher success in retention when you’re able to focus on one shot at a time.
  • Improve your timing. Once you’re able to hit the perfect shot comfortably, change up the pace. In a real match setting you might have someone popping floaters over or an opponent serving bullets. Adjust the speed on the ball machine to improve your rhythm and racquet preparation. Start slow-medium-fast, or fast-medium-slow and repeat.
  • Have targets and/or consistency goals. Practicing targets can involve actual cones to aim for, or start simply by aiming for 5 shots in a row down the line, then do 5 in a row cross-court. For practicing consistency, make a goal of getting the ball in 10 times in a row then raise it up.  
  • Work with a pro. Request to incorporate the ball machine in your next lesson. A pro can much better analyze and tweak problem shots when they can watch you hit from a different angle.
  • Bring a buddy. One exercise that will keep your feet moving while hitting shots is practicing a little ‘ping pong’. For example, set up the shot for backhands only and rotate each shot between you and your buddy. You might be huffing and puffing but you’ll thank this heart-pumping practice in the next long match rally.
  •  Leave time for serves. It’s not uncommon to see our members leave the last 10 minutes of their session or tag on another ½ hour just to practice serves. Think about it, when exactly do you practice serves? When it comes to a strong game, every shot matters. Remember perfect practice makes perfect.
If the ball machine seems intimidating, ask a Towpath staff member to show you how to use it and what you want to work on. Once you get going, you'll be a practice expert in no time!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Why you need to try the Wilson Clash

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Let's talk Clash! What is it? How is it different? Why do I need to play with? How can I get my hands on one?
Now available for purchase & demo at Towpath Tennis Center.

What is the Wilson Clash?
Short answer: Wilson's new revolutionary racquet. Long answer: The Clash is not only Wilson's new buzz-worthy racquet, but its pushing boundaries with its innovative technology making a racquet that has both ultimate power AND control.

How does the Wilson Clash compare to other racquets?
The current carbon fiber racquets on the market right now are either suited toward control or power. The Clash has both! Wilson has worked its majic in creating Freeflex and Stablesmart technologies making the Clash twice as flexible as other racquets. And why do I want a more flexible racquet you might ask? Because it allows for longer 'pocketing' of the ball, so the racquet bends with each stroke for maximum power and control.

Why are there two versions of the Wilson Clash?
The Wilson Clash 100 and Clash 100 Tour are designed with NO specs on the racquet. This was an intentional decision made to eliminate preconceived notions on a racquet before trying it. The main difference is in the weight, so make sure to demo both to find which works best with your game.

Who will want to play with the Wilson Clash?
Anyone looking for an arm-friendly racquet! If you didn't know comfort and speed could be combined in one racquet without too much shock on your arm, then you're in luck! The Clash offers significant feel compared to other leading racquets without compromising power. Also, the stability/flexibility features in this racquet are demonstrated nicely when adding a soft touch to a volley winner or cranking a groundstroke from the baseline. Compatible with all playing styles!

How can I play with the Wilson Clash?
Demo the Wilson Clash 100 or Wilson Clash 100 Tour for free at Towpath Tennis Center during your next lesson or clinic, or make court-time at our demo rate to see what everyone's talking about. Also, Wilson is now offering the Clash Confidence Guarantee if you buy a Wilson Clash by April 15. If you aren't 100% satisfied, return it within 2 months of purchase for a full refund that can be used toward other Wilson gear and equipment that better complement your game.