Category Archives: Tennis

Every 30 years!

It’s been over a year since I penned a post on this blog, but it looks like I may have more time for it this winter. Next week I will be having surgery to repair a ruptured left achilles tendon and the usual recovery is at least 6 weeks in a cast.

Its been over 30 years since I ruptured my right achilles and went through this drill before, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I have never felt such pain as I did on that day in 1980 when I went down on the SUNY Geneseo squash court wondering who had shot me– and I hope I never do again!

By comparison, the pain from the pop on the tennis court Saturday morning was mild. Of course the first rupture was sudden and unexpected, the more recent one has been coming for almost 5 months.

I first injured my achilles on the tennis court in July. I really don’t even remember how I did it, except that by the end of a match I was quite sore. I tried to stay off it for a few weeks, but having a tennis club in my back yard and having the annual club championships running through August made that hard.

In August I was playing in the finals of our grass court doubles tournament when at a crucial moment of a tightly contested match I ran for a lob over my partner’s head. The pain came back with gusto and I had to retire from the match with the score tied 4-all in the 3rd set.

Again I stayed off the court for a few more weeks and actually seemed to be recovering. I played once a week or so in October, and then just to be safe, I decided to take the last three weeks of our Fall outdoor League off, to rest the leg up for the Winter indoor tennis season which was due to start Dec. 1.

Ironically, while avoiding the tennis court I tripped on a branch while working in the woods one day and fell hard. I pulled the tendon so hard that I at first thought it had to have ruptured. After a few minutes I got to my feet and was able to walk, but the tendon was never the same.

I knew I was really not ready to play tennis Saturday and so arranged for a sub to play for me. However, at 8 pm Friday night I got a fateful e-mail that one of our group had torn his calf muscle playing racquetball and could not play in the morning. With the match scheduled for 7:30 am in the city, I was out of time to find a sub and out of  options, so I decided to chance one for the team.

To protect myself I watched a couple of online videos on how to tape an achilles. Basically, the preferred method is to run a piece of stretchable tape down the back side of the leg anchored between the top of the achilles and the middle of the bottom of the foot.This elastic tape is pulled fairly tight to limit the range of motion of the achilles so it does not overstretch. (This may have been the only smart thing I did all weekend!)

Thus prepared I was ready to do battle. The first set went off without incident. In the middle of a fabulous comeback in the 2nd set ( that saw us come from down 1-5 to win the set 7-5) I received one final warning when I felt somehing give in my leg.

I almost quit then, but after walking it off for a few minutes I figured I could continue the comeback. A few points into the 3rd set, after about 75 minutes of tennis, I again tried to run for a lob and felt the classic sensation that someone had hit me in the back of the leg with a racquet.

I quickly realized that no one was close enough to do that and since nothing had fallen off the ceiling to hit me, I concluded that the tendon was gone. I limped off the court and had to be helped to my car with a broom stick for a crutch.

The rest of Saturday was spent on the couch with my leg elevated and covered with ice packs as I drugged myself with liberal doses of ibuprofen and Tylenol. Although the pain was moderate it was tolerable and I actually slept fairly well Saturday night. Amazingly, by Sunday morning I was able to walk with little pain so long as I didn’t try to push off on the bad leg.

A trip to my orthopedic surgeon Monday afternoon confirmed my diagnosis. I was actually happy to hear that he thought I should have the surgery since my biggest fear was that it might only be a partial tear and I would only be offered a cast. After four plus months of struggling with ever-worsening problems with this tendon I knew from my reading that surgery was my best chance to get back on my beloved courts quickly and at full strength.

My doctor commented on how narrow the gap in the broken tendon was and I think that was because the tape job probably limited the force of the explosion when the tendon gave way. It may also have limited the pain.

All and all, however, if I add up all the pain that tendon gave me over the last five months, I guess the total pain was about equal to what I felt in one intense burst 30 years ago!

I know I probably should have just stopped playing tennis for the season back in July when I had the first injury, but that’s asking a lot. Now the doctor says no tennis for 6 months. At least it’s coming at the right time of year, and  that should get me back on the court around the middle of June –just in time to tune up for next year’s club championships!

After the series of injuries that I had over the past few months, and especially after my fall in the woods, I kind of feel that the tendon was probably beyond natural healing anyway. The achilles is notorious for slow healing because it has a very stingy natural blood supply.

Going through the pain of the operation and the rehab is going to be a drag, but I am encouraged by the thought that by next summer I will be back on the court playing better than ever! And in the meantime, there’s always reading, watching old movies and blogging–and in the spring, croquet.

I guess I can be thankful this only happens every 30 years and my next rupture is not scheduled until 2041, when I will be 90!


Getting a “Quick Start”

I learned tennis the old fashioned way when I was 6 years old. My first lesson was given against a backboard which I still believe is the best way to learn, but then I’m old school. The latest way to teach tennis, as I learned when I attended the USTA Eastern Regional convention in January, is something called Quick Start Tennis or QST.

QST has a couple of stages but they both involve a smaller court and a different ball. The beginning stage is played across a regular tennis court for a 36-foot court. The ball is a large nerf-like foam ball which is very easy to hit. The net can be as simple as a piece of plastic tape stretched across the court, thus allowing play to continue if the ball happens to go under the net.

This latter feature best illustrates the point of the game: to let nothing stand in the way of having fun! I got to play the game myself at the convention and it is a lot of fun. Being a highly competitive adult, however, I played the game full throttle, rushing the net and smashing volleys and I had a ball! I think advanced players could have just as much (or more) fun playing this game as you would playing the conventional version.

Once the small game is mastered, students move up to an intermediate size court which is 60 feet long across a regular net. (A full tennis court is 78 feet long) The ball for this game looks like a regular tennis ball, but it has had the air pressure reduced so it doesn’t travel as fast. I didn’t find this game as much fun, but I suppose it makes it easier for beginners to work their way up to the full-size game.

The theory of QST makes a lot of sense. We don’t send Little Leaguers out to play in Yankee Stadium. We have them play on a field that is more their size and that is what QST does. The beauty of QST is you don’t even need a tennis court. It can be played in a gym, in a parking lot or even in your driveway or backyard.

On Saturday March 28, the Genesee Volley Tennis Club is sponsoring a workshop to learn about QST at the Holcomb School Gym on the campus of SUNY Geneseo. The workshop will be taught by Michelle Skelley a QST certified expert provided by the USTA. Michelle is a tennis pro at Wanakah Country Club in Hamburg, NY.

The seminar runs from 1-4 pm and is open to the general public. There is a $10 charge for curriculum materials. This seminar is designed for parents, coaches, gym teachers and recreation program directors. It is not meant for children, but the club will sponsor a childrens event later in the spring.

Hopefully, some of the people who attend the workshop will catch the QST fever and start programs of their own in local schools and parks. At least that’s the idea and that’s why the USTA is giving the club $800 of QST equipment to keep.

This could be the start of something big in the local tennis community and I hope you will consider attending. If you do, wear gym clothes and sneakers and be prepared to have fun! Please e-mail me or call me at 233-5338 to register or if you have any questions. See you there!

Identity crisis

I’m sorry that my column is a day late but I’ve been having an identity crisis. Not really. I know who I am, it’s just that I’m not sure what my name should be. In the alternate universe of Facebook, I recently took the plunge and changed my online name to Biff. This is a name that was given to me by my friend Georgene Nitzsche a few years ago and that I adopted as my professional name when I became a tennis pro last year at the advanced age of 57.

The amazing thing about FB (as it is known to the cognesceti) is that once you change your name it goes back through all your previous postings and automatically changes your name. On FB, at least Corrin has been successfully killed off. If only it was so easy in real life.

Of course, I have a lot of experience at name changes since I was born and spent my first 18 years as Michael. I like that name, but I hated the diminutive “Mike”, especially when it evolved into “Mikey” after a certain cereal commercial. When I set out for college in the Fall of 1968, I adopted my middle name, Corrin.

In order to change your name, it’s best to have a new pool of people who don’t know your former name. They are willing to accept your new name at face value, while those who have known you before are often quite stubborn in wanting to cling to the name they are familiar with. (Especially my daughter Mary Alice, who I think is just jealous because FB won’t let her change her name to Malice!)

I had an opportunity to try this with Biff when I went to the USTA (United States Tennis Association) Eastern region convention a few weeks ago. Since no one there knew me from Adam, I had my name tag made out with my new four-letter name. Throughout the weekend, people were addressing me as Biff and I loved it.

The thing I like about being Biff is that people smile when they say your name. I’ve encountered the same thing at home ever since I announced my new name to the local tennis world last summer. People rarely say my new name without a smile and often a little laugh. It’s nice to bring a little joy into a very depressing world right now, so I’m going to stick with Biff.

The only problem is that, while Biff is a great tennis name, it doesn’t go so well with my other passion to return to a life of farming. Seriously, has anyone ever heard of a farmer called Biff? Biff connotes a boy of leisure who has nothing better to do with his time than to poke his head in the door and ask merrily, “Tennis anyone?” That’s a role I was born to play.

Farmer Biff is a harder sell, but I’ll work on it. BTW. Did you know that biff is an actual English word that means to punch or hit? So Biff Strong actually means to hit strong, which is why Batman’s punches were always denoted as “Biff, Bam, Pow.” Perhaps my farmer name could be Bruce Wayne.

Hartford House Subdivision

The three words in the title above are likely to spark fear in many traditional Geneseo minds and wild rumors around the county. Yes, I have applied to the Village Planning Board to divide my 70 acre estate into three parcels, but don’t expect to see any major developments going up, other than the addition of some more tennis courts at the Genesee Volley Tennis Club.

For one thing, a conservation easement placed on the land by my parents prevents me from building more than one additional house on the bulk of the estate. Even though I could develop the 7.7 acre area near the Gate House (Called Lot 1 in the subdivision plan), my financial position is not yet so bad that I am forced to consider that.

The main motivation for my action is to clear the way for the continued growth of the tennis club I founded last year when I built one Har-Tru (clay) court. The club had a very good first year and already has over 50 playing members. As the club grows we will soon surpass the playing capacity of one court and I can’t afford to build more Har-Tru courts on my own.

The main idea of the subdivision is to provide collateral so that expansion of the club can be financed without involving the rest of the estate. A 7.5-acre parcel (Lot 3) has been carved out of the north end of my property (bordering my sister Susan’s part of the original estate) for future development of the club. This would be sufficient to provide for at least 7 additional courts if the demand would ever require that.

The area in Lot 3 is also the area designated by the conservation easement for my lone additional house, so if everything goes south, and the club goes bust, it could be sold as a single family home site. To make that more practical (and thus better collateral), the lot contains access to Avon Road opposite the former Balconi car dealership so it would not be landlocked. Again there are no immediate plans to construct a driveway there, but it could be done in the future if needed.

A secondary reason for this move is to make the growth of the club less of a insurance risk to me personally. Even though the club has been formed as a not-for-profit corporation and I lease the court area to the corporation, and even though the corporation carries liability insurance and has agreed to hold me harmless, the fact that the court is on the same parcel as my home and the only access is across my land apparently raises concerns among insurance underwriters. These concerns recently led to my personal umbrella coverage being canceled which is a situation I am not very comfortable with.

Finally, this move would allow the remaining 56 acres of my land (Lot 2) to be included in an Ag district. That jives with my plan to return to small-scale farming this spring. I have purchased a small 50 horsepower John Deere, a two bottom plow, a two-row cornplanter and a 72″ pto rototiller in preparation for growing about 5 acres of vegetables. This will be nothing like the 600+ acres operation I ran in Caledonia in the 1980s, but I hope to put my farming experience to good use making a profit this time.

Being in an official Ag district provides many protections for farming operations under state law and guarantees the right to farm, even in a village. In order to be approved for that I have to apply to the county in September, and I can’t have any non-agricultural activities on the same parcel.

This does not necessarily mean I will apply for or receive an Agricultural Exemption on my property taxes. I don’t think the Assessor is hitting me too bad on my vacant land right now, although my total assessment of $660,000 is no doubt among the highest in the village for a single-family home. If this goes through, though, I will get a separate tax bill for the tennis club which I can pass along to the club.

So there you have it. There are no other secret agendas, although I don’t expect everybody to believe that. I’ve always been served well by the advice that I got when I first came to town almost 40 years ago: “In Geneseo, people don’t care what you do, as long as they know about it!” If you want to know more, you are welcome to attend the next meeting of the planning board on Feb. 25 at 4 pm. I am on the agenda and it is a public meeting. In the meantime here is the concept map of my plan.

The dream of a lifetime

Special Guest Column
By “Biff” Strong

First, for those who haven’t met me, let me introduce myself. I am Corrin’s alter-ego “Biff.” Most of you know Corrin as a controversial public figure– newspaper and now blog publisher, community activist and perennial candidate for public office– but I am more of a private person.

Some might say I am Corrin’s inner child, but I resent that. Just because I like to play tennis and finally convinced Corrin to build a clay tennis court in the backyard does not mean I am not a grown-up! Tennis can be a serious business which I am going to prove to the Geneseo community in the coming weeks and months.

I really can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love tennis. At the age of 6, I was given my first tennis lesson on a backboard on the clay courts of Old Black Point, Connecticut. OBP, as the locals call it, is a summer community in the Town of East Lyme near the village of Niantic. Now it is very chichi, having been taken over by hedge fund billionaires from New York, but in my youth it was an idyllic family community.

BTW It is my firm belief that practicing with a backboard is the best way to learn the game because they are always willing to play, they never get mad if you miss a shot and they rarely fail to return a shot unless you hit it over their head. That is why I insisted that Corrin install a backboard on the new court.

Helping people learn to play better tennis is important to me because Corrin has just hired me to be the resident tennis pro at the new Genesee Volley Tennis Club. I am available for private lessons (at very reasonable rates) to help tune up your strokes or give you some tips on how to get the competitive edge for playing on a soft surface.

Later this summer I will be starting the Big House Tennis Academy which will include clinics for players of all ages and abilities, as well as a summer camp. Watch this space or your local newspaper for details.

Playing on clay is a very different, and in my view, a vastly superior game than playing on the traditional asphalt hard court. For one thing, the clay is very spongy and thus is much easier on your feet and legs. The ball also bounces higher and truer and therefore points last longer– and spin shots and lobs become much more effective.

There is a whole new level of strategy in clay court tennis, but I can’t say any more here. For that you’ll have to take the advanced course! Contact Corrin if you are interested! See you on the court!

P.S. Thanks to all the folks who came out to the Old-Fashioned Tennis Court Raising this past Saturday. 30 of you worked very hard on a very hot day to help make the Dream of my Lifetime come true. As my personal thank you, I am offering a FREE tennis lesson to each of you!