PLAY STARTED Thursday in the first John Graves Memorial Tennis Championship at Columbia's Wilde Lake Tennis Club. Early play in this club championship winds up today with final and championship matches running Thursday through next Sunday.
This Columbia-wide championship was named for Graves, who died June 13,1999, playing the sport he loved. The retired Social Security Administration executive, also known in golf and duplicate bridge circles locally, began making his name in county tennis around 1980.
His involvement included team competition and being three-time director of the Howard County Tennis League, three-time chairman of the Columbia Tennis Committee and active tennis fan and supporter.
"He wound up knowing everybody, from beginners to good players, never said a bad word and never raised his voice, but he got things done," said his friend Bob Berlett, a 25-year Tennis Committee member.
"I loved the man. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about him," Berlett said.
Graves also became a U.S. Tennis Association umpire and was twice Maryland's umpire of the year.
Wilde Lake club members also have honored Graves with a memorial chair that players pass entering the courts.
"It helps remind people who he was," Berlett said
It starts with tennis
While on the subject of tennis, here's something to mull from the Columbia Association's tennis bulletin boards. It's from Joe Dinoffer, a U.S. Professional Tennis Association master pro:
"Tennis is not only the best sport to play for a lifetime, it also is the best first sport for children to learn, as well," writes Dinoffer, who has conducted more than 30,000 hours of clinics in 50 nations.
Among his several arguments is this: "It has long been understood that the soft-hand skills required for volleying, as well as dropshots, lobs and other touch shots in tennis, are terrific catching skill-builders for other sports."
Tennis, writes Dinoffer, is the only sport out of soccer, baseball, football, basketball and golf with all of these characteristics and or skills: throwing, catching, striking, running and striking, movement and rhythm, three-step movement, aerobic and anaerobic benefits, and team-building.
Next best sports on those counts? Baseball, football and basketball.
Weakest? Golf, although Dinoffer notes that golf, along with tennis, of course, can be played for a lifetime.
Rhythm? What's that got to do with anything?
Writes Dinoffer: "Sports educators are now broadly beginning to emphasize the importance of rhythm in sports, although dance teachers have long expounded its benefits.
"Because tennis is a continuous rhythm activity, it offers many timing and rhythm benefits not available from many other sports.
"It may be interesting to compare soccer and tennis in this regard. In tennis, players are constantly involved with the bail; however, in soccer, a center half-back[sic], for example, will only be in contact with the ball about two minutes in a full-court [sic], 90-minute game."
Dinoffer's soccer terminology is bent, but his time estimate isn't. Of course, the way soccer is played today, a central midfielder always is in the thick of things at least mentally, even if that means not touching the ball or possessing it much.
Gene Ward, the county's senior golf pro, having been at former All-view and more recently Hobbit's Glen since 1968, on changes In the game : "There are a lot more people playing today. They tend to be younger, and there are a lot more women. There're also a lot more kids - Tiger Woods has definitely made an impact on younger people taking up the game.
"But the biggest change in the game has been technology. People just hit the ball a lot farther than they used to. The continuing changes in equipment, though, really help keep interest in the game alive."