By Anna Roberts, SHAPE America 2016 Southern District Adapted Physical Education Teacher of the Year
Winter season is just about here! Provided the snow has fallen, there are plenty of physical activities that can keep our blood flowing and our bodies moving. However, when I think of wintertime fun, one particular activity comes to mind. You can put away your snow boots for this, just be sure you’ve got your tennis racket handy! It may not immediately come to mind when one thinks of winter sports, but tennis is one of my favorite traditions during the holiday break!
My children became interested in tennis after watching the teams practice when I joined the Atlanta Lawn and Tennis Association (ALTA), one of the largest tennis associations in Georgia. Our family, like many other families in the Atlanta area, would gather on the courts practicing our skills in hopes of being the next big star. In fact, it is not unusual for ALTA families to make the trip each year to the U.S. Open to get a glimpse of tennis stars, such as Roger Federer and the Williams sisters.
One of the unique qualities I love about tennis is that it can be played indoors or out – a perfect physical activity this time of year. During inclement weather, tennis can be played on indoor courts or skills can be transferred to other racquet sports such as badminton, squash, or ping-pong. Playing half-court indoors can increase agility skills and hand-eye coordination in preparation for outdoor play during the warmer months.
As an adapted physical education teacher, my experience playing tennis for over 10 years carried over into teaching in the classroom. Our school’s adapted PE Department rotates through different activities, including tennis. Exposing students to the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Youth Tennis program has helped them learn new skills and even expand upon them – helping them enjoy the activity with their families even more.
Students who can hit a ball consecutively over a net to a partner, and hit a return ball independently, feel a sense of accomplishment and get excited, exclaiming, “I did it!”
I make it a point to encourage my students to take the initiative and ask their parents to be active with them. During the holidays, children can suggest a family outing to the local park or recreation center to work on their tennis skills. They can make tennis an inclusive family activity by creating net play challenges, such as seeing how many times one can volley the ball or hit ground strokes across the net to a partner.
After the holidays, I always look forward to my students’ tales of family tennis. From the joy of spending time with friends and family, to establishing active traditions and building memories that will last a lifetime, the winter holidays are a perfect time to explore tennis in your local community.
You’ll find more activities to stay active this winter season in SHAPE America’s Teacher’s Toolbox.
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