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Sheri Whitley
The family that plays together : how to make tennis a family affair

The ranks of professional tennis are sprinkled with champions who honed their skills playing against their siblings while being coached by their parents. Venus and Serena Williams, MaliVai and Mashona Washington, Dontia and Angela Haynes, and Thomas and James Blake are just a few. But you don't have to parent a phenom or have your own tennis trophies to make tennis a family activity.

Getting your kids and your partner to join you on the court might not be as hard as you think, particularly if they already have an interest in the sport. Lower everyone's anxiety level by setting realistic expectations. Peggy Parks, a United States Tennis Association-certified instructor, says, "I teach some children 3 years old who are quite good, but not everyone is that good." Keeping them in groups with kids their age is a good way to keep them comfortable, says the owner of Austin, Texas-based Tennis For Kids. "Success is the key to maintaining their interest," she adds. "They need to feel that they've done a good job and feel good about themselves. Praise them always."

Making the commitment to play together is also a healthy way to keep the pressure on to exercise regularly. Forty-five minutes of cardio burns anywhere from 500 to 650 calories. Playing three to five times a week for that long will increase your endurance and cardiovascular health quickly. With obesity and diabetes on the rise, particularly for African Americans, tennis is a great way to get in shape or improve your fitness level.

Sheri Whitley

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