8 March

Forget school, these are the lessons of a tennis life

Tom Kearns

Undeterred by his unhappy experience at school, Tom got into tennis in his thirties, and is still going strong nearly 30 years later

I love watching Gaelic Football (in the pic I'm wearing the strip from the Rossies, my native county Gaelic Football team County Roscommon) and hurling but I had a less than happy tennis playing career going to school. I felt I was never any good at it and had the humiliation of always being among the last to be picked when leagues were being set up at the start of each school year. My cousin who played to a high level always covered for me by pretending to "snap me up".

Years later I took up tennis at Battersea Park in my late twenties and to my amazement found I could rally with the best of them. I gradually found my way into competitive tennis for people aged thirty-plus and had many happy days in what was then a lively league run by chap called Ron Gray known as South London Tennis League. Over ten years I won 5 divisional titles and clocked up 200 matches. I also took part in the LTA Volkswagon Series and loved travelling to the various venues and clubs. Life is full of symmetries:  I particularly enjoyed travelling one Saturday morning to play a tournament in Hendon Park, which is now my local park.

Having recently celebrated my 60th, what I love about tennis is getting out there in all weathers, working out and knowing it is helping me keep mentally and physically fit. I now love our tennis league because you get to meet tennis enthusiasts who are serious (but not too serious!) about their game and over time you meet and make friends. I joined to get some competitive experience, broaden my knowledge of tactics and use of psychology and mainly to meet with kindred spirits.

I like to be able to surprise and on a good day I like to mix it with end to end rallying, play plenty of good forehands (neatly executed as instructed by my current coach Adam from Brampton LTC) before finally hitting a winner - either a drop shot or a ground stroke straight to the corner.

As with playing all competitive matches, being in the league has improved my game and the great thing about Local Tennis Leagues is everyone I have played against is fair and shows great sportsmanship. I particularly enjoy meeting and playing against people from different countries. I recently played in the autumn series of the Paddington Rec League and enjoyed absolutely playing all matches despite not winning a set. What shone out was that all players were of high standard without being overly aggressive and wanting to send cannonballs. I also hugely enjoyed playing in last summer's Golders Hill Park league. I had a particularly close match on a hot summer's day with a Latvian lady whose style reminded me of one of the Italian professional female players who had just won her first Grand Slam. 

I would recommend the league absolutely and my hope is I can continue to play and juggle better demands of being a father to a teenager and a public library professional.