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A night of their own
Women take the court to hone skills and find friends.
By Mike Camunas, Times Staff Writer
Published February 26, 2008
Ace Performance Tennis owner and instructor Louise Downey, left, demonstrates to Kandy Callighan how to hold her racket steady to prepare for the next shot during Ladies Night Out tennis class at McKethan Park in Spring Hill.
[Mike Camunas | Times]
[Mike Camunas | Times]
Intermediate-level tennis player Becky Grothendieck calls the weekly classes an opportunity to learn, not a league.
This is ladies night.
But thankfully, Kool and the Gang won't be performing.
Nope, this is Ladies Night Out, a fun, social way for beginning and intermediate women to sharpen not only their tennis, but their conversation skills as well.
"People here are serious about getting better," intermediate player Becky Grothendieck said. "And it's not so much being serious - it's a desire to get better."
But don't call it a club, because it's far from that. Though members do pay a fee to play, there are no membership cards, no formal meetings or initiations. Just bring your racket and an open mind.
"It's not a league - it's an opportunity to learn," Grothendieck said. "It's not a high-pressure game, because it's more technical than anything right now. We have ladies who never picked up a racket before, which is neat, because they're trying something new and active, and that's incredible because that's what we want."
What instructor Louise Downey, the owner of Ace Performance Tennis in Spring Hill, wanted was a place for women to do something for themselves. Downey kept seeing women make the sacrifice to let their children play, and the longtime professional instructor wanted women to have their matches, as well.
"My husband, John, and I figured we'd have a women's night out, to get them to have their own time to play tennis," Downey said. "Eventually, their goal is that they get good enough, and their children old enough, that they can play as a family. But really, it was just to make sure women made time for themselves."
Downey says she focuses on volleys and backhands, simple aspects of the game, and then goes at different paces or skill levels depending on who shows up for class each week. It's the simple stuff, keeping the classes laid back and near effortless that's an attempt to keep the fun right where it should be: on the court.
"The No. 1 goal is go have fun. I make sure of that," Downey said. "Then No. 2 is to learn the basics, learn how to play. We're not trying to make a Wimbledon hero here, just somebody who can play recreational tennis."
And for Downey, who is also the girls tennis coach at Nature Coast Tech High School, it's a good way for her to be social as well and to have an opportunity to make sure you can still teach an old dog new tricks.
"This is a good escape (for me)," Downey said, "because (the women are) so conscientious and so into it. They just soak up everything I say because they want to learn and they take me word for word. And I'm a certified professional and I've worked with so many types of people - lots of kids - that this is a nice change of pace."
Grothendieck feels the class is "done in a light social manner, which is appealing," and she's probably right, because as classmate Kandy Callighan puts it, she's glad to learn the game better so she can keep up with some old friends.
"It's a good way to be social," Callighan said. "Soon I'm going to visit a friend in North Carolina and with this - learning the basics and practicing - I'll actually be able to play with my friend. Because here, they teach you enough that you can play with someone, and then when you play, you don't look like an idiot doing it."
Submit story ideas, feedback to Community Sports editor Mike Camunas at email@example.com or call (352) 544-9480.
Ladies Night Out
What: A tennis class offered by Ace Performance Tennis of Spring Hill that is a social way for beginning and intermediate women to sharpen their tennis skills.
Where: McKethan Park in Spring Hill, 800 John Gary Grubbs Blvd.
When: From 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. Wednesdays.
Cost: Each class is $10, or four for $35.
The class runs through May 21. For information, call Louise Downey at (352) 666-0658.