From novice to semi-pro, Glenwood Springs Recreation serving up tennis lessons |

From novice to semi-pro, Glenwood Springs Recreation serving up tennis lessons

As I stepped onto the Glenwood Springs Community Center tennis courts for my beginner lesson with no prior tennis experience, I was expecting to be able to hold my own in some way.

Just five minutes later my face was strained as tennis balls were being deflected every which way, including over the fence.

I quickly realized the lesson was not going to be a breeze but an immense challenge.

When I think of tennis I think of the graceful, flowing, powerful movements of some of the best tennis players in the world. Players like Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic all make tennis look easier than it is with their every move expertly controlled. As Glenwood Springs Recreation Department’s tennis professional Sue Geist fed me tennis balls to hit, I was far from being light on my feet or graceful.

Geist continued to holler at me “to stop hunching over and stand upright like when you run.” For whatever reason I was in an athletic stance at all times, it looked like I was getting ready to guard a charging basketball point guard or go down a slope on a snowboard as opposed to hitting a tennis ball.

After tweaking my form to a tall, upright stance while holding both my hands on the racket, I felt like I had a better opportunity to position myself to make contact with the incoming tennis ball.

I encountered another problem as Geist was trying to assess my minimal tennis skills. Geist instructed me to hit the ball with my backhand and as the ball quickly approached I extended my racket on my weaker right side and attempted to hit the ball with one hand. The ball didn’t even get close to making it over the net, in fact it bounced off my racket and landed a few feet in front of my planted feet. In that humbling moment, I couldn’t help but ask myself: Should I just give up?

Geist immediately stopped hitting balls and instructed me that you should never try to hit a backhand with just one hand.

“Single-handed backhands took me years to master and are harder to control. If you hit a backhand with two hands you will not only have more power but more control,” Geist said.

In other words, “Slow your roll, hotshot, you’re not even close to that level yet.” But Geist delivered it with grace and support, and her instruction worked an instant later. Suddenly, my backhand was transformed and, according to Geist, was stronger than my forehand.

For the rest of the hour-long lesson I found it challenging but also invigorating to try to improve the skills Geist had instructed me to focus on. I never realized that tennis requires you to focus on your position, your racket and what hand you may hit the ball with all while the ball zips toward you at a rapid pace. This was a quick change of pace from my usual sport of choice, running, which when dumbed down is predominantly putting one foot in front of the other.

By the end of the lesson, I was lightly perspiring with my limbs sore from unsuccessfully and occasionally successfully fielding tennis balls. My brain was also fried from trying to focus on so many new things at once. I think I left the Community Center tennis courts a little bit better of a tennis player than I was when I strolled in an hour earlier, but the jury is still out on that one. And at the end of a lesson, that’s the best you can hope for.

One thing is for certain, though: Sue Geist and the other tennis professionals at the Glenwood Recreation Center will work hard to try to develop you into a better tennis player no matter what your skill level is. I was surrounded by three other tennis players who ranged in their level of tennis, but by the end each walked away with at least one skill that had improved over the course of the hour. At that rate of improvement, one can quickly transform from tennis novice to tennis pro. It just might take a bit more than putting one foot in front of another.

If you go…

Who: Anyone interested in learning tennis or improving their skills

What: Beginner, intermediate and advanced tennis lessons

When: July 12 to Aug. 4. Based on skill level, times and day change, but program offers AM and PM slots on Mondays/Wednesdays and Tuesdays/Thursdays.

Where: Glenwood Springs Community Center tennis courts

For more information or to sign up for a lesson, visit

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