The tennis season has begun.
Whether you’re a newcomer who knows nothing about tennis but wants to start learning, a newbie who played a bit last season, or a full-fledged tennis hitter, here’s what you need to know.
Get a PermitYou can’t get anywhere without a permit. You can apply online at www.nycgovparks.org, but many people chose to go in person.
The Arsenal at 65th on 5th Avenue is the go-to place where tennis conversations and stories are traded from one patron to the other while waiting for permits to be processed.
Permit fees are $200 for adults aged 18–61, $20 for seniors 62 and over and $10 for juniors from 6 years old to 17. Proof of age may be required and if you present a free IDNYC identification card seniors and juniors will get a 10% discount on their permits. You may pay for your permit with cash, a money order or credit/debit cards. If you happen to lose your permit, adults and seniors will have to pay $15 for a replacement and juniors must pay $6. If you may not want to commit for an entire season, you can always buy a single play or “pay–as–you go” ticket for $15. No photo ID is needed and if you want to reserve a court at a certain day or time, the fee is also $15.
The other venue to buy a permit is Paragon Sporting Goods at 18th street on Broadway. While you wait, you can look at racquets and other accessories to complete your tennis needs for the season. The store has a cozy area straight in the back where permits can be bought.
Getting the AccessoriesPeople new to tennis can head to sporting goods store such as Modell’s or Sports Authority to purchase a racquet at a reasonable price. Stay away from racquets without strings. They are designed for the more advanced player who has the desire for a certain type of string. Racquets of this type will be more expensive. The handle or grip should be labeled 4½ for average hand size; a hand that is a bit larger will need a 4¾.
A can of tennis balls -- no matter the brand -- is also a necessity.Most of the court surfaces on city courts are either clay (red or green) or hard/composite courts. The numbers on the balls will coincide with the label at the bottom of the can designating the surface.
Tennis sneakers must be smooth soled, preferably of a herringbone embossed sole. You can ask the sales clerk to guide you.
Acquiring PartnersNow that you have the permit and accessories to play, you need partners.
The most difficult part of learning to play tennis is having enough partners, who can hit with you, helping to improve your strokes and game while keeping the game enjoyable for you and them. If you’ve been playing tennis longer, you probably have enough tennis partners to keep your game hot and your rallies going strong. Most tennis courts have a bulletin board where you can put up a card providing your name, phone number and level of skill.
Getting LessonsThere is a program for seniors, 62 and over who may be first timers and who want to learn the basics for free. The program ends June 19 and was started by the City Parks Foundatio. Juniors age 6 through 17 have NY Junior Tennis League (NYJTL), to learn tennis basics for free.Contact the NYJTL for more information on dates and locations. Both of these free programs offer lessons and free racquets and balls for use at the site. If you want to go with a pro, there are numerous raquet clubs that offer private lessons.
Learning the Basics on Your OwnIf you aren’t financially able to take lessons and free lessons aren’t given when you want to learn, you can always stake out a hand ball wall, usually located inside of schoolyards or playgrounds around the city’s parks. The wall is an excellent tool for toning up your shots. Many times I did “The Wall” practice, which made my shots hard, strong and consistent when I was able to get partners to play at a city court.