Ian Young started playing tennis out of curiosity. "There were tennis courts right across the street from our house and everyday I'd go watch people play," says Ian. "Then one day a coach saw me watching and asked if I wanted to play. I said 'sure!'." He was eight years old when he picked up a tennis racquet for the very first time. Now, 10 years later, Ian's one of the top players in Maryland and is on his way to the tennis team at Longwood University. He's played in the Junior Olympics, the Amateur Athletic Union tournament, and three U.S. Opens.
After college, Ian hopes to play professional tennis. He says he wants to play just like his hero, tennis champion Arthur Ashe. "Venus and Serena Williams are playing right now and they're great," Ian says. "But there aren't any African American males at the top of the game. I'm going to try to change that." Ian says he's going to work hard in college and practice more than he ever has before so he can try to reach this goal.
It's great to have big goals, but you've got to work hard if you're going to achieve them. Ian's team practices five days a week. But don't worry if you're not looking to play competitively tennis is a great activity to do with family and friends. Ian plays pick-up games with his buds all the time! You can also play on your own, hitting the ball against a wall.
It doesn't matter if you're a tennis super star like Ian, or just a weekend player, it is important to warm up and stretch before you start swingin' that racquet. "I don't always want to stretch," he says, "but I know how important it is so I always make sure to warm up." Ian's been injured before, and he doesn't want it to happen again. "Once you get injured, you can't play at all. So I'd rather take the time to stretch than have to sit on the side later on."
Ian's coach leads the team through pushups, sit-ups, crunches, footwork exercises, and hand/eye coordination drills. "It's very strenuous, but it definitely helps me play better," Ian says. "I don't get tired on the court like I used to."
Hit the Court
Not everyone lives across the street from tennis courts like Ian, but you can still probably find courts in your area. "See if you can find a tennis facility near you, and then go and try to find a coach who offers lessons," says Ian. "Boys and Girls Clubs are a good place to start. Once you develop some skills you can join a team at your school or a tennis club." It doesn't take a lot of equipment to get started, and there are lots of public courts you can use for free. So grab a racquet, check out the rules, and hit the court!
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