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Tennis Lessons & Tennis’s Lessons

  • Depart from your comfort zone
  • Learn about sports culture in Italy
  • Find and grow your community around shared passions and interests
  • Increase professional and personal focus
  • Network on and off the court 

Italian tennis champion, Jasmine Paolini, celebrates a recent victory

Pickleball fans, do not despair! 

As I told a few pickleball enthusiasts in an online discussion group who were convinced that the sport had not yet made its way across the Atlantic, if you are planning on coming to Italy, you will be able to play and I can even point you in the right direction. 

While I don’t play pickleball, I do play tennis and have reliable insider information that I was happy to share to set the record straight. 

Italy is a very sports-centered country, and if there is a sport about which you are passionate or love to play in your free time, chances are you will be able to do it here as well. 

Challenging yourself

I picked up tennis in my 50s and it was the best thing I ever did. I have always followed and loved the game, but had never pursued it in a serious way while growing up. 

A couple of summers ago, my daughter, nephew and I happened to find ourselves in a place where there was a tennis court and rackets, so I proposed that we hit the ball around a bit.

They couldn’t have been less interested and were bored and complain-y. 

I felt exhilarated. 

It didn’t matter that I didn’t have any skills whatsoever, the minute I held the racket in my hand, I felt a strong pull to play, and I promised myself I would begin lessons once I returned to Italy.

I signed up first for private lessons, once a week at a local and well-known club in town.  As I discussed in a podcast episode dedicated to finding community, I just never felt at home there and my game wasn’t progressing.  So, thanks to a close friend, I changed clubs, started lessons with a new pro, and it’s been a literal game changer.         

I am very high energy and high anxiety, so I need the cardio, endorphins, and adrenaline rush to calm me down a bit. After the team sports I played throughout my childhood and teen years, my adulthood has been marked mostly by solitary athletic endeavors.

Healthy Departures

When my ex-husband had his first affair, all I wanted to do was run away.  And so, I put on a pair of sneakers and just started running.  I continued to try to run the pain away.  It wasn’t enough. As we were getting divorced, in addition to running, I started going to the gym. I did everything alone, headphones on, music blaring, never wanting to engage with anyone, it was my time, the only way I could feel at peace.   

I am also a very serious walker, often opting to hike even an hour or more each way across town instead of driving or taking public transportation (I am terrified to bike here).

In addition to the obvious mental and physical health benefits of playing tennis there are hidden benefits that I hadn’t expected. 

Community & Clarity

I play tennis twice a week, once on my own and once with a group.

When I play alone with my maestro, sometimes we play what he calls Zen tennis, where we rally in silence.  Our lessons are cerebral and philosophical; he reads me and my mood perfectly based on how I respond, hit, and serve. Playing with him has taught me how to focus better, set attainable goals, identify my weaknesses and my strengths, and push myself both on and off the court. 

I have found so much deep satisfaction in challenging myself, in mid-life, to learn something new, to work my body and mind and to see results. This departure from my comfort zone has been liberating and necessary. 

When I play with a group of three other women, the vibe is totally different. It’s social, chatty, and jokingly competitive. While the core group is usually the same, there are others who step in when one or more of us can’t make it.

I have played with teenagers and seniors.  I have met people from all over the world, made professional connections, and have even found new clients on the court. 

Playing with a variety of people and a different maestro brings both challenges and gifts to your game, making you a better, more flexible, ready, and wholistic player.  

My best advice for expats in Italy is to find a community of people around a shared passion, whether that be tennis or pickleball or any other sport of activity that you love or about which you are curious.

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