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East County Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009 10 years ago

Athletic center brings beach to Lakewood

by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Eleven-year-old tennis partners Greg Short and M’Balia Bangoura plant their feet squarely in the sand and place a firm grip on their rackets — their eyes fixated solely on the net and their competition.

After a few practice swings, the pair begins the first of its eight-game set. But within a matter of minutes, the peaceful court is overcome with jubilation as more than 30 children eagerly wait for their own turn in the sand.

For the past week, participants in the Lakewood Ranch Athletic Center’s youth summer camps have spent nearly every day enjoying the thrill of beach tennis. But instead of having campers travel nearly 30 minutes to the beach, the athletic center decided to bring the beach to them.

The center unveiled its new 60-foot by 30-foot beach tennis court Aug. 11. Since then, the court has rarely been empty as both members and campers have taken to the new sport.

“The members have definitely responded to it,” Director Paul Lederman said. “It’s been incredible. We’re always trying to provide additional (activities) to keep up with member requests, and right now we’re the only facility in Florida that has beach tennis.”

Beach tennis shares similarities to the traditional sport. Players use a normal tennis racket but hit a softer tennis ball. The court is exactly half the size of a regular tennis court, and players are only allowed one serve. A match consists of an eight-game set in which players must hit the ball over a 5-foot, 10-inch net while keeping the ball from touching the ground.

“The unbelievable thing about beach tennis is that every player sweats 100 times more than in a regular game of tennis,” Lederman said. “It’s an amazing workout. It’s like a combination of tennis, volleyball and badminton.

“If you aren’t a good tennis player, then you may think you’re doing well, but you really don’t have the feel for what it’s like,” he said.

Lederman came up with the idea for installing a beach tennis court after learning about the game from a fellow tennis player. He approached Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club General Manager Wayne Piazza with the idea. Together, they formulated plans for the new court.

“I told them, ‘We have a lot of grass, so let’s just put in a beach,’” Piazza said. “The members have responded very well. This is a very vibrant and active community, and they don’t mind walking on the edge.”

The center will hold a grand opening party for the beach tennis court from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 19. Members are invited to come out and enjoy beer, hot dogs and music and participate in the open challenge court competition. Eventually, the center would like to begin holding open challenge court competitions every Saturday on the beach tennis court and court one as well as on its new Ping-Pong table.

“They really go at it,” Piazza said of Ping-Pong. “It’s become a scratch game out there. The kids eye the adults and the adults eye the kids. The Ping-Pong table has become a rights game to see who owns it.”

For more information on the Lakewood Ranch Athletic Center, visit its Web site at

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 19
WHERE: Lakewood Ranch Athletic Center tennis facility, 8488 Legacy Blvd.
Admission: Free

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