Summer rec program for adults
By Angie Landsverk
Jack Heniff went to a Rose Bowl when he played football at the University of Illinois.
Years later, he discovered a new sport he enjoys playing – tennis.
“I had never played tennis,” said Heniff, who attended the university in the early 1950s on an athletic scholarship.
That changed about 20 years ago when Rick Simmons taught him and others how to play it.
“I was about 65, and I am 84 now,” Heniff said. “He (Simmons) was my mentor, and I’ve played it ever since.”
Heniff is among those who play tennis inside the Waupaca Recreation Center during the winter months and then on outdoor courts in the community other times of the year.
“I recommend it for young people to get involved,” he said. “It’s a sport you can play the rest of your life.”
Simmons targets people like Heniff for the tennis lessons he offers through the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
When Simmons put together a program for adults 20 years ago, it ran two summers.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We had a lot of successful people.”
Heniff was one of them.
“He was part of my first class 20 years ago and is still playing in his 80s. And he isn’t the only one in his 80s. But he’s unique, because he had never played before,” Simmons said.
A few years ago, Simmons approached Aaron Jenson, Waupaca’s parks and recreation director, about resurrecting the program.
Jenson was receptive to it, and this go-around, Simmons is preparing for a third season of teaching adults how to play tennis.
The 66-year-old Simmons began playing tennis when he was 14 and played on a junior college team.
Simmons is passionate about the sport.
The lessons he offers are for those age 50 and up.
It is a coed program, and they play doubles.
Simmons teaches three levels: Beginner/Advanced Beginner, Intermediate and Drill Play for Winning Doubles.
Drill Play for Winning Doubles is a new addition this year and is for those who completed both of his other classes.
Registration opened last month and ends May 19.
People may sign up for the class on Activenet, the recreation software the Parks and Rec Department uses.
They may access Activenet by visiting apm.activecommunities.com/waupacaparknrec/Home and either logging into their account or creating one.
The cost for adult tennis lessons is $60 for residents and $70 for non-residents.
An organizational meeting and initial lesson will take place on Wednesday, May 24.
When people register, they may choose to attend either the 2:30 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. meeting and lesson that day.
“The first day, it’s a hodgepodge of people,” Simmons said. “I want to see people in a variety of settings. By the end of that session, I know which class they belong in.”
Those taking the class select what time they want to meet for lessons.
Simmons shuffles groups of four to six people into classes, based on their experience, ability and the times they select.
There will be a total of six classes, including the initial class, with one class set up per week.
The approximately 90-minute lessons take place at the Waupaca Middle School tennis courts. If the weather is bad, the classes are held indoors at the rec center.
Simmons teaches adults how to position themselves on the court.
“The doubles format lends itself to individuals with physical limitations,” he said. “They can still play fun, competitive tennis.”
He teaches proper technique and also how to respect limits and play to the best of one’s ability.
“There are sports men gravitate to in youth and cling to in their middle years and then drop and don’t do anything,” Simmons said. “You can play tennis, and you can control the amount of movement on the court.”