Swings and sass are a must at the Knoch Park Tennis Courts for the Naperville Park District’s tennis class held every Tuesday and Thursday night.
Eeshwar: You have a social circle in addition to having a good workout and you get to play tennis so it’s a whole package.
Knoch Park Tennis
Welcome to Tuesday and Thursday nights at the Knoch Park Tennis courts… a place where you will hear skeet shooting from across the street, tennis balls constantly in play… and yet, somehow… sarcasm, loudest of all.
Meredith: We have nicknames, we make fun of peoples idiosyncrasies when they’re out there. We’re like ‘oh, there’s that goofy one-handed back-hand.’ We encourage, in a way that’s obviously uplifting, but makes everyone feel like they’ve brought something unique to the group. In a way, I think that’s what everyone looks forward to.
Meredith Pollack has been with the Naperville Park district since 1997 and her voice seems to rise above the rest. What may appear to be just a tennis class… is so much more.
Meredith: They’ve seen me get married, have a kid and grow up. And the same thing for them – we’ve witnessed them go through engagements and new jobs and transfers.
You see, this tennis class – and overall, this program overseen for the last 35 years by Susan Kursar – is centered around two things: tennis and relationships.
Mary Kay: It’s for sure the camaraderie; with the instructors and with my peers. We just have a riot. Women, men, all different ages – we’ve just become like a mini family.
Eeshwar: I think I stayed with this group because I kind of assimilated to it, it’s kind of a second family now. It’s a fun group. We rag on each other, so I just stayed.
Mary Kay Bowie and Eeshwar Pitchiaya are on opposite sides of the longevity spectrum… with Mary Kay a 25 year member, and Eeshwar joining just two years ago. And the whole “ragging on each other”thing is real. And for Claudia DeStefano, it’s what makes the class fun.
Claudia: It [sassiness] totally does [make it fun]. Because not only are we working really hard but we are having a lot of fun. And you’re really comfortable with the group of people and never feel like you’re hurting someone’s feelings and everybody jokes everyone else. So it’s a good time.
The class is for intermediate to advanced players, and to figure out if a player belongs – he or she self-critiques their game and is assigned an National Tennis Rating Program, or NTRP, rating.
Claudia: They tell you in the book that you have to be at a certain level of tennis skill and if you’re not at that level, they will move you down. And I was super nervous… that they were going to move me down. (laughter) but they didn’t, thank god.
Meredith: Once they’ve kind of agreed that they’re at the level, it doesn’t really matter age, gender, background, any of that – if their skills match the range for this class, they can come in.
What the program description doesn’t include are assistant coaches… assistance sarcasm coaches, that it.
Meredith: I always introduce different people in my class as my assistant sarcasm coaches because: my sarcasm, which I used to take ownership for has really just spun off and now other people own it and they say it with the same intonation and snazziness that I would. And I just sit back and let them take the lead now and it’s just really funny, you just hear it up and down the courts when they’re encouraging each other. It’s cute.
Winter months are hard for this group of players and friends, with the class running only from April to October. But that surely doesn’t keep them from connecting.
Mary Kay: A lot of us talk through the winter and play indoors together during the winters just to keep the relationship and the momentum going.
But now? Spring is officially here… which means plenty of shots… and plenty of snarkiness at the Knoch Park tennis courts.
Reporting for Sports Story Sunday, I’m Kevin Jackman
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