Tennis is often portrayed as a solitary, hyper-competitive sport – but the truth is that tennis is a fun and fulfilling game to also play leisurely. Social play for adults of all ages and levels is on the rise in the Sunshine State and USTA Florida strives to highlight all the ways players can take advantage of what tennis has to offer.
Social play provides a great alternative for players who would rather enjoy the leisure of the game than the dedication of a league. These casual tennis play experiences offer a great way to stay healthy, meet new people and to have some friendly competition with friends and family. Whether it’s at your local club or your neighborhood park, it’s easy to pick up a racquet and play tennis regardless of your age and level of ability.
“Studies show tennis is a great activity to help people stay fit, live longer, and be social all at the same time; not to mention the fact that it is fun for all ages,” says Christine Ducey, USTA Florida Director of Adult Tennis. “Our world is increasingly connected online but being connected to others in your local community through sports, like tennis, can be beneficial too. Meeting and interacting with people whose only similarity may be an interest in tennis, is a great opportunity to make new friends.”
More than 1,300 players were impacted by USTA Florida’s efforts in 2019 to expand social play opportunities in every region of the state. In 2020, the organization set its sights on increasing that number to 1,750 – until the COVID-19 pandemic shut tennis play down across the state. As play opportunities continue to resume in 2021, social play is one area where more growth is encouraged.
“Casual tennis is a great social game you can enjoy for life; it’s widely accessible, easy on the joints and keeps players social without requiring large team rosters,” says Jennifer Wysocki, USTA Florida Adult Program Coordinator. “These events are a great way to build and strengthen friendships and networks.”
Whether it’s a social league, multi-club round robin, or themed mixer events like Tacos & Tennis and Coffee & Croissants – there are a variety of social opportunities available for all players.
In the past, social mixers have been a big draw at USTA Florida’s managed facilities in Cocoa Beach and Gainesville.
“These social events are always such a good time,” says John Sanders, the Head Pro and the Racquet Club of Cocoa Beach. “It’s nice to get everyone out to play in a casual environment where the main goal is to have some fun.”
Black lights, dance music, and tennis took over Play Tennis Gainesville’s Joyce Oransky Tennis Center in January of 2020, where 60 players were treated to a glow-in-the-dark spectacular with XGLOsive Tennis. The social event blended the fun, lively atmosphere of a nightclub with the fast-paced workout of cardio tennis and featured games for all ages and levels of play. XGLOsive Tennis hosts events throughout the year for everyone, from junior and adult to wheelchair and adaptive players.
“We’re committed to delivering tennis in a way that is fun and serves everyone,” shares Play Tennis Gainesville Head Pro Christopher Champion. “Tennis is a versatile sport, and it was such a rewarding experience to be able to expose players to a whole new style of tennis.”
If you’re interested in a more laid-back form of competition, a casual social league could be the right fit. In early 2020, the Adult 18-39 Team Tennis League lit up the courts at the Titan Tennis Center at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne. The league is a casual non-advancing league that offers great competition and loads of fun for its players.
“We had a successful season with 31 sign-ups and four teams,” says Gina Palombi, Adult League Coordinator for USTA Florida. “The group would put in their time on the court and then head out for a social gathering afterward, creating an overall very enjoyable and social experience.”
Above all else, if you enjoy tennis but don’t want the pressures or commitment of serious competition, social and casual play events are offered at clubs, facilities, and parks around the state.
“I think more than anything tennis offers a way for people to be part of their community,” says Ducey. “It’s important to get out there and get connected with others. Even if your only connection is through the sport that you love, that’s a really great way to build not only the tennis community, but communities overall.”
Interested in social play opportunities? Visit www.USTAFlorida.com/adult-tennis/casual-play to find opportunities in your area.