Sports

Many a young man or woman has experienced this scenario: You are a freshman in high school, anxiously watching warm ups before tryouts for the basketball team. As you watch the other kids warm up, you begin to realize that your strength and skill level does not quite match up to some of the more senior members of the team.

Why? Well, for one they may have been playing for a few more years than you, but there is a more basic and obvious reason they are able to grab that rebound faster than you are.

They are in great shape.

They are bigger, stronger and faster than you — and it’s painfully obvious.

So you decide to bag the tryouts, hit the gym and spend a year working out until your physique matches what you see from the others on the court.

If that plan seems both defeatist and a bit old fashioned, it’s because it is.

These days it seems more and more folks are using sports themselves as a way to get in shape. After all, why endure the monotony of endless sit ups and weight training when you can stay fit by playing the game itself?

Of course, that’s not to say gyms are a waste of time; surely you can focus and fine tune a workout in a gym, but for the average person who just wants to stay healthy and active, a few games of tennis or softball on a regular basis might just do the trick.

“For me it all started because I wanted to lose weight before the wedding,” says Teri Fanutti, a future bride and former couch potato who began playing tennis once or twice a week six months ago in preparation for her upcoming nuptials. “I found the more I played, the better I felt in general, and the better I felt, the more I wanted to keep playing. It’s a vicious cycle I guess, but it’s one I can live with she laughs”

Fast forward to today and Fanutti hits the courts four times a week “And that’s on a bad week,” she says with a chuckle. “At this point, I have developed a real love of the sport — I even watch it on TV!”

Catching the tennis bug has become common among women in particular. “You see kids and some men, but we really get a lot of women. Particularly those over 40,” says Kristin Conover, manager of Greate Bay Racquet and Fitness in Somers Point. “They play tennis together all year round. They have contracts so the same groups play all the time. It’s a great form of cardio, and it’s better than a traditional treadmill.”

When asked if she finds a lot of people using tennis as a substitute for the gym, her response is simple and to the point.

“Absolutely.”

One aspect that’s often absent from a traditional gym workout is the feeling of camaraderie and being on a team. Retired teacher Freddy Gaffney of Smithville found that after years of playing basketball at both the high school and college levels, he missed the social aspects of the team as much as the game itself.

“So I called a few friends and began putting together pickup games in my driveway,” Gaffney says. “You’d be surprised how competitive it gets. We may not be as fast as we once were, but by the end of the game everyone’s breathing heavy. And we all have a few laughs and get to see each other more often than we would otherwise.”

This sentiment seems to be the same no matter what sport one might choose to stay fit. Tommy Mantle, a police officer who splits his time between Ocean and Atlantic counties has been playing softball once a week for the last 10 years. While not a year-round activity, the health benefits and team spirit seem to make the whole thing worthwhile.

“It’s a form of exercise that I can actually enjoy,” Mantle says. “And the team aspect is big too Playing together to win and having the competitive aspect to it is why a lot of guys play. It gets the competitive juices flowing!”

GREATE BAY RACQUET AND FITNESS

WHEN: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

WHERE: 90 Mays Landing Road, Somers Point

HOW MUCH: Contracts vary, call for details

MORE INFO: 609-926-9550 or go to GreateBayRacquetAndFitness.com

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