Day One

Dear annabelle:

I'm on my way to tennis camp and I'm a little worried. I signed up for tennis camp by accident. My friend Jasmine and I were chatting about tennis and I casually mentioned that I was interested in taking lessons. Next thing I know, she has me signed up for four days of non-stop tennis in upstate New York. (I had to talk her down from seven days. Four days was a compromise.) Considering I've never played tennis before, this should be interesting.

To add to my worries, let me tell you about the letter the tennis camp sent me. Basically, it said that in order to really benefit from the camp I should be in good physical condition and be able to jog a mile. And what if I'm not physically fit? They provided "a series of short and easy to do exercises" that performed daily will increase my stamina and muscle tone. I GOT THIS LETTER FOUR DAYS BEFORE I WAS SET TO LEAVE!!

At this point there is not much I can do. A trip to a Modell's sporting goods store for new sneakers (first pair in 15 years) and new clothes to sweat in ($122.00 later) and I'm on my way.

Here's hoping I survive boot camp,

Raffaela

Later...

Dear annabelle:

Well, I'm here. What I can I say about this place? Do you remember Dirty Dancing? Well the campgrounds closely resemble the Catskills resort featured in that movie. I half expect Patrick Swayze to come dancing by in his tight T-shirt. Our room is pretty sparse. Two twin beds, two lamps (very dim), and this weird little bathroom. The shower has spider webs and a nice big juicy spider crawling around the tub, and the toilet rocks when I sit down (not the toilet seat, the actual toilet!)

Oddly enough, when I first checked in, I asked if the camp was a member of AAA. The response was, "Well, we've tried to apply, but apparently there are a lot of standards that AAA has that we don't meet." That should have clued me in. (A+ to AAA for having standards!)

I've been here for an hour and they already expect us to start playing tennis.

Wish me luck!

Raffaela

Still later...

Dear annabelle:

Well, I'm still alive. As it turns out, I think I like playing tennis. The first hour is just what I would expect. Forehand, forehand, forehand, forehand... run... backhand, backhand, backhand, backhand... run... etc... At this point, I'm breathing so hard I think I'm going to pass out.

Just when I think I can't go another minute, we are separated into groups based on our abilities. Jasmine and I are placed together along with two other women. I love the group, and, in my opinion, we are assigned the greatest tennis instructor in the whole camp. Lucas is the sweetest, most encouraging young man I've ever met. Never once does he reprimand me for my bad habits or make me feel that I can't play. Even when I make a mistake (which is pretty often) he points out what I'm doing wrong in a joking manner or he makes a funny face. Never does he express frustration with any of us. Once we are assigned our groups, the pace slows down to something a little more manageable. I'm not breathing quite so hard and I'm already starting to learn.

After the first tennis lesson, it's time for dinner. As part of the tennis package, all of our meals are provided. The dining room has community seating and dinner is served buffet style. The atmosphere at the entire camp is casual. We eat dinner with our fellow tennis attendees, a total of seven, two men and five women. Dinner is delicious!

Since there are no televisions in any of the rooms, we feel compelled to go exploring after dinner. We venture off the tennis camp property in search of civilization. After driving the wrong direction three times, we finally stumble upon the town of Saugerties. (It's about three-quarters of a mile from the camp, but it takes us 30 minutes to get to.) All our tired bodies could handle was a stop at the CVS pharmacy.

I know. It's not exactly a success.

On to the next day.

Raffaela

Day Two

Dear annabelle:

Owwwwwwww!!

We played a total of five hours of tennis today. Our tennis instructor Lucas continues to be encouraging and patient with all of us. I seem to be progressing as well. My body, on the other hand, is wondering what the hell happened. This type of physical activity is not the norm.

So after our first full day of tennis, we are looking forward to dinner and meeting the new guests who checked in earlier today. Now the camp has about 60 people, and I neglected to tell you this earlier, but it's "Singles Weekend." Truthfully, while I have no expectations of actually meeting anyone during this little adventure, I am curious to see what kind of single men would be at this getaway.

Raffaela

After Dinner...

Dear annabelle:

Well, as it turns out, there are hardly any single men at camp! Most of the people who arrived are just tennis nuts more interested in perfecting their swing than "hooking up." (Not that I am looking for that, mind you.) There are a few couples, lots of women on vacation from their families and the occasional single male bonding group. The likelihood of making a love connection is minimal.

The camp does arrange for a happy hour type setting to foster mingling. Our small group decides against it and ventures off the premises once again in search of civilization. This time we take a drive over to Woodstock, New York, just ten miles away. This little excursion would have been perfect except that just about every store in town is closed.

Raffaela

Day Three

Dear annabelle:

Another full day of tennis. This morning I meet Lucas before breakfast for our one-on-one lesson. It is half an hour of pure cardio hell. As he fires tennis balls at me from all angles, it is my job to perfect my forehand. Well, it works (sort of). My forehand looks great, but my backhand soon deteriorates. It's exhausting, but invigorating to start your day all pumped up.

While the new guests are evaluated and put into their groups, we, the original guests, or "Super Seven," have an early morning break. This works out great for me because I really need to recuperate from my one-on-one lesson.

Raffaela

Later...

Dear annabelle:

THEY VIDEO TAPE YOU!! I didn't know that! We are just about to learn the overhead shot when the director of the camp comes by with a camcorder. He tells us what shots we are to take while he tapes us. The idea is that later on, you and your group will watch the tape and the instructor will critique you. How embarrassing! Especially since I have not yet mastered the serve or the overhead. Plus, do I really want to know what I look like all sweaty in workout clothes? Ick!

On top of the taping, the director singles me out and asks to "see" me. I know it is my first time playing, but am I that bad?! Turns out, he wants to see my tennis racket, which is on loan from my cousin. He takes one look at my "Mickey Mouse" racket and says, "see me at lunch." He gives me a demo racket that will help me "play better." I can tell a difference immediately and even consider purchasing the racket, except my good common sense tells me not to purchase a $100.00 racket for a sport I am just learning.

Well I'm off to shower in the spider-infested bathroom. Tonight, the camp is hosting a wine and cheese party and a barn dance. This should be interesting.

Raffaela

That night...

Dear annabelle,

Wine and cheese good. Barn dance bad.

The main lodge is quite attractive and cozy, a perfect setting for the wine and cheese happy hour. After dinner, we decide to check out the barn dance. As it turns out, there is another community building on the property (sort of barn-like) and inside there is a bar, pool table, and ping pong table. There is music playing but the only people dancing are the tennis instructors that live on the premises. Did I happen to mention that all of the tennis instructors are gorgeous, sexy men from Latin America? They have amazing tanned bodies, bright smiles, and gorgeous faces. Even I, who admit to not being easily impressed by looks, am wowed. On top of that, the instructors are salsa dancing and moving their hips in this rhythmic way that has me mesmerized. Once again, I've stepped into Dirty Dancing land.

Tomorrow is our last day at tennis camp. I'm looking forward to going home and sleeping in my own bed, but I'm sort of sad about not playing tennis everyday.

Raffaela

Day Four (Last Day)

Dear annabelle:

We play one more full day of tennis. As part of the last day of the program, a demonstration on how to properly play tennis is given. All the guests gather around one of the tennis courts and watch as the beautiful tennis instructors demonstrate the correct and incorrect way to serve and volley. They show us how to play and communicate with each other as a doubles team. It is a great demonstration, all that running and grunting.

And then, before I know it, the day is over.

We say our good-byes to our beloved Lucas and our newfound tennis friends (including the spider and the rocking toilet) and hit the road back to reality.

I'm so glad I took this little adventure. I'm totally hooked on tennis now (well, not quite when it comes to watching it on TV but certainly to play).

So how about it, annabelle? Tennis anyone?

Raffaela

For more information: www.totaltennis.com

 

Features:
Our Readers' Summer Camp Memories :: My Little Darling :: Summer Camp Fashion Spread :: Photo Essay: The Pines :: Who Says You Can Never Go Back To Camp? Q&A With Author Seth Davis :: Horsing Around in Brooklyn :: Confessions of A 30-Year-Old Camp Counselor :: Tennis Camp, Anyone?

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