My name is Russ Garber, and I am a tennis and POP Tennis enthusiast. I live in a place where this is no POP Tennis, so I play tennis a few times a week. However, I travel to Venice Beach over twenty times a year to get my fix of POP Tennis, a game we all love. This column discusses many of the reasons why POP Tennis is more fun and enjoyable than tennis. This is not an essay to denigrate tennis, but rather to point out the many reasons why POP Tennis is more enjoyable and inclusive than tennis for many people.
- POP Tennis is easier to play: Because the POP Tennis paddle is much less powerful than a tennis racket, it is much easier to play POP Tennis. Tennis requires many lessons and is not that much fun for the beginner. It is much easier to gain competence in POP Tennis, making it much easier and enjoyable for the beginner and recreational player.
- There is no overhead serve: The overhand serve is one of the most enjoyable shots in tennis, however, it requires much skill and much practice. The overhand serve also causes many injuries and the separation of players into multiple levels. Against a tough server, many returns are missed. Many older tennis players can no longer execute an effective serve and this limits their ability to compete at a higher level. Those with shoulder injuries cannot even compete at all. I have seen many formerly outstanding tennis players who do not have time to practice, give up tennis, because they have lost so much on their serve that they no longer enjoy playing.None of this is the case for POP Tennis. The underhand serve does not require much practice or the extended effort that can lead to injuries. The underhand serve is also significantly easier to return, leading to many longer and more fun points in POP Tennis. The ease of returning serve results in less differentiation between players, allowing more players to interact and have fun games.
- The POP Tennis court is significantly smaller than a tennis court: Because of this, it is easier for the less mobile player to compete and to serve and volley. While speed and quickness are very important in POP Tennis, almost all players of all levels of mobility can still charge the net. If one watches senior tennis doubles, especially on a lower level, they will see that the points are rather monotonous. The server stays at the baseline and most returns are lobs over the net player and this pattern continues until there is an errant shot. In POP Tennis one can observe all levels of players serving and volleying, with many exciting points and the lower level players competing in very much the same manner as the very top players of the game.
- There are fewer levels in POP Tennis than tennis: Because of the reasons listed above, it is easier for players to mix and match levels and have an enjoyable time in POP Tennis than in tennis. The smaller court allows one player to cover for his partner, allowing more competitive sets and more inclusion in each set. For example, when I come to Venice, I often play with the professional or ‘open’ players and then play with a ‘B’ level player against two ‘A’ level players and the latter sets are every bit as enjoyable as the professional level ones. Because the paddle is less powerful than a tennis racquet, the ‘B’ level player can still return and volley and I can cover 65% of the court making the set very enjoyable and allowing each player to compete at the best of their ability and have an enjoyable time. Conversely, can one imagine such a tennis match with Roger Federer and a 4.0 level player vs. two 5.0 level (highly advanced) players? While it’s not clear who would win, the game would be horrible to play. The 5.0 players would never return Federer’s serve and the 4.0 would rarely return the 5.0 serves, leading to a very boring match. In POP Tennis, everyone can return and everyone can hit balls hit to them.
- POP Tennis is like a playground for adults: Due to the underhand serve, smaller court, and fewer levels of POP Tennis, it is much easier for more people to enjoy playing with each other. Furthermore, because the warm-up is less extensive than in tennis, players can just ‘show up’ at the POP Tennis courts and take ‘next game.’ This feature allows players to arrive at the POP Tennis courts and play and have fun with minimal scheduling. As a tennis player, I’ve had numerous examples where a foursome for doubles is already set and I have to tell another player, often a close friend, “sorry, we already have a game.” This does not happen at POP Tennis, where the fifth (and more) can easily be accommodated by rotating around. Furthermore, as busy adults, games are not ruined because one player gets stuck at work late or has to leave early due to a family situation. In POP Tennis, a number of players show up and everyone plays as much as they wish.
The above is just a short list of the reasons I love POP Tennis and am so enthusiastic about helping with the growth of this great game.