As an instructor for the Silver Sneakers and Water Arthritis (not a typo) exercise classes at the Suntree YMCA in Melbourne, Fla., Gina Palombi noticed that the some of the older players hitting full-court tennis at her facility were not getting that much out of the game.
The rallies were short, the large court was too difficult to cover, and more time was spent chasing balls than hitting them.
“I thought Masters Tennis would be great for seniors, socially and physically,” Palombi said of starting the short-court program at the Y. “Our facility has the court indoors. It is used four times a week, and my seniors are loving their long rallies. It’s rewarding to me because they are loving it and getting exercise.”
Masters Tennis shortens the court from 78 feet to 60 feet, and utilizes the “orange” lower-compression tennis ball that is easier to control. Participants can use shorter racquets that are also easier to master, or their own conventional-size racquets.
Palombi says that Masters Tennis is for all levels, from those with years of experience who can get a great workout to those brand new to the game, as illustrated by one of her “success stories.”
“Her name is Nancy,” Palombi says. “She is 75 years old and had trouble with her balance and strength. Through the Silver Sneakers class she got stronger. When we started Masters Tennis, she struggled because she could barely move or hit the ball. A month later, Nancy improved so much she was the most consistent one [in the group] and her mobility improved so much.”
Palombi is not limited to spreading the word of Masters Tennis. She also acts as a local adult league coordinator, and teaches a 10 and Under Tennis class once a week.
“I have grown the class to 15 participants,” she says. “I have had the same kids for over a year. It’s great to see them improving and loving the sport.”
Molly Zimmer, the USTA Florida tennis program coordinator for the region, says Palombi has grown tennis at all levels in the Melbourne area.
“She has the gift to be able to work with all ages, from 10-and-under players, USTA adult league players, and Masters Tennis players,” Zimmer says. “In our first meeting I knew that I had a met a wonderful person who would be a great volunteer for USTA Florida. I recruited Gina to work as a USTA Florida local league coordinator, and later connected with her to roll out Masters Tennis. Gina is also an avid player and great advocate for the sport.”
USTA Florida congratulates Gina Palombi as the February 2015 Volunteer of the Month for getting players back in the game with Masters Tennis, and for advocating for tennis at all levels in the Melbourne area.
Birthplace: Manilla, Philippines
Family: husband Ken, daughters Morgan and Lauren
Favorite Movie: The Notebook
Favorite Food: shrimp and lobster
Favorite Travel: “Anywhere — love to see the world! Anywhere with tennis!”
Favorite Shot: volley and overhead smash
My earliest tennis memory was…“when I was in high school. My friend Donna introduced me to the sport. I tried to copy her swing, two-handed handed forehand and backhand. We had fun rallies.”
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be…“my husband Ken and two daughters Morgan and Lauren.”
When I am not playing tennis I am…“usually at work training clients or teaching aerobics.”
My best tennis memory is…“the women’s finals between Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini in Ameila Island.”
I like to volunteer in tennis because…“I love the sport!”