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Adult tennis students still eager to learn

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | JUNE 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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A 50-year-old, 51-year old, and 64-year old struggled to bounce tennis balls off a green plywood wall built against the tennis court in Mercer Park on Tuesday. Two kids — who came up to the adults' waists — played one court over, serving hard into long volleys and executing perfect backhands.

The Iowa City Recreation Division offers adult tennis lessons. The students are eager and willing to learn from instructors half their age.

"We want to keep learning as we get older, but in order to do that, we have to have opportunities like this," Amy Stockman said. "Having a class like this gets me out here. Otherwise, I might just be at home."

Teaching the basics — how to hold a racket, how to shuffle side to side, how to warm up one's wrist — to adults can be arduous. Some struggle, instructor Kellen Wiest said, but kids struggle, too. It's part of the learning process for anyone.

The adults can hold their own with a tennis racket, however.

"The older people aren't as active as the kids," Wiest said. "They're not running back and forth in the heat and scraping their knees or anything, but they definitely keep up on the court."

Kids struggle to pay attention, but adults can focus for a full 45-minute class. Because adults can stay attentive to spoken instructions and their own action, they actually catch on quicker than children, Wiest said.

Children might not choose to attend tennis lessons, but adults are definitely there on their own accord.

The lessons — and recreational league that the Recreation Division also hosts — aren't very competitive, but that's not what the older students are looking for, anyway. They just want to learn.

"I really like playing tennis," Shirley Stockman said. "I have played at it just for fun sometimes, but I'm not very good. I came [to lessons] because I want to try it, to try something new."

Nancy Zemblidge used to play tennis in high school, but she hasn't touched a racket — competitively or recreationally — in around 30 years. Her 11-year-old son is taking tennis lessons, and Zemblidge wants to play with him.

"I need this as a refresher course because it's been such a long time," Zemblidge said. "It's difficult at times — I'm not used to bursting in speed, and my backhand is really bad. But we've been out volleying as a family, and it's been really fun. I want to do this; I want to learn more."

Amy Stockman took swimming lessons at Mercer Park as a child and then took her children, now in their 20s, for lessons at Mercer when they were young. She's now taking the adult tennis lessons at age 50 with her sister-in-law Shirley Stockman, 64.

"It's great to be back here again, taking lessons as an adult," she said. "This is a time of my life where I can do things like this. My kids are out of the house, and I have a little more time now, so why not try to get better at tennis?"

Everyone in the lesson is a beginner, so even though some participants are 50 years older than the kids on the next court, they're not embarrassed to fumble volleys off a wall.

They're 50 or 60 years young and can keep playing for years if they learn now.

"They're never shy because they're just here to learn and to exercise and have fun," Wiest said. "A lot of them come out here and then realize that this is a sport that they can play and enjoy for the rest of their lives."


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