| By Steve Annacone

 

I started playing tennis when I was 10-years-old. My brother Paul and I would go with our parents to the park in Sag Harbor and eventually, we decided to go out and try to hit some balls. We pretty much picked it up right away and became regular hitting partners for the next 20 years. Paul became a successful professional tennis player, and I was his coach for most of his playing career.

Tennis has basically been my life since I was 14. I have learned a lot through playing, teaching and coaching. My years as a tennis professional and coach have given me the ability to communicate better, understand the benefits of fitness and exercise, and also enabled me to enjoy the sport while improving my skills in all areas. Tennis teaches you the life lessons of:

 

►How to deal with losing or not being successful
►How to exhibit good sportsmanship
►How to learn from your mistakes
►How to organize your time efficiently
►How to continue to improve over time
►How to help others enjoy success

Tennis gives kids a great opportunity to excel in a sport. You do not have to be a great athlete to be a very good tennis player. Discipline, hard work and desire will take you a long way in this sport. In addition, because there are so many aspects to becoming a good player, many people can be successful in tennis by competing well, having a good strategy and learning from their experiences on the court. Putting all of these elements together is a great recipe for success.

Playing tennis at the collegiate level is a great goal for a young tennis player. The number of scholarships for boys (4.5 per team) makes it difficult to get a free ride to college, but it can help you get into a school that you might not qualify for academically. For girls, there are still more scholarships available (eight per team) than players. I get phone calls regularly asking if I have any, or know of any players who might want to play tennis in college. There are many opportunities to use your tennis to help with a college education.

I believe that tennis players tend to form an alliance. I have made many friends through tennis and still have contact with a large number of them. We can all relate to the different experiences and great stories on and around the tennis court, and it has bonded us in a way that no other sport can. The individual aspect of the game tends to separate us when competing, yet brings us together when we are not on the court opposing each other.

Tennis teaches you that a game is a game, there are other things in life that are more important than winning the game. I strongly recommend that kids experience this great sport and I hope that I can continue to be involved in making that happen.