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HEALTH & FITNESS : League Tennis--Fierce but Still Polite

March 26, 1992|DIANE CALKINS

In pursuit of a fit and healthy lifestyle, North County residents have pursued all the usual routes--walking, cycling, running--and quite a few of the unusual routes, too. They climb rocks, chase trails marked with flour and ride their bicycles in circles.

For every variation in taste, schedule and physique, there seems to be a route to fitness out there. Some folks have charted their own way, others have connected with an established program. Whatever your own program or lack thereof, fitness starts--or ends--with a good night's sleep. And whether you exercise occasionally or often you'll feel a whole lot better if you do it without injury.

If you're ready to get up and get going, still just thinking about it, or looking for new ways to put yourself through your paces, we offer these suggestions for getting the lead out:

On a day perfect for tennis--not too hot or too cool, with a bit of a breeze and even a few wispy clouds to blunt the sun's glare--the two tennis teams meet: the Canyon Hill A team versus the Singing Hills A team in women's doubles competition.

Other team members watch or chat quietly, not wanting to break the concentration of the contestants on the courts. League tennis, although played for the joy of the game, should not be mistaken for the social variety, which sometimes features as much talk as it does tennis.

As more and more women break out their mid- or oversize racquets and hit the courts, the competition has become more, but still politely, fierce.

When competitive adult tennis teams were first formed in North County about 30 years ago, only five clubs participated: Escondido, Oceanside, San Dieguito, Ranch Santa Fe and El Camino. Now, 35 clubs field 103 women's teams with about 2,400 regular and substitute players.

Some of these clubs are private, others are public and require little or no investment to join. Some have as few as three courts available; others, such as Lomas Santa Fe Country Club (with 15), have many more.

The original organizers formed the North County Doubles Tennis League specifically to provide a structure for winter tennis, which had been ignored until then. Now women's matches begin the first full week after New Year's Day, and most teams complete regular season play before May, when United States Tennis Assn. action begins.

Participants in winter play are divided by ability into six conferences, from the entry-level C on up to the highly competitive AA, said Carl Maier, who helped organize the first teams and is still in charge. He and assistant Julie LaRue take care of scheduling of both men's and women's teams and help solve the problems that never fail to arise.

As for the quality of women's tennis today, Maier says it has improved dramatically from "a lot of moonballing" to a hard-hitting game. That led two years ago to the creation of the AA conference to accommodate the numbers of skilled players, including teaching professionals and recent graduates who played college tennis.

"We're seeing a real resurgence of interest in tennis, especially for women, like that which occurred in the early '70s," said Melissa Porzak, director of tennis at Rancho Bernardo Community Tennis Club. "We have a diverse group of women playing in this area, women of all ages, some retired and some with young families. More and more people are competing."

League tennis doesn't just offer the ex-college stars a chance, though. Women who first started playing after their children were in school or their careers established and who have never competed in the athletic arena also have the opportunity to learn, hone their skills and face opponents on the courts.

Although the ultimate aim for any club is to field the best possible team or teams to compete with other clubs, equally intense competition occurs among members of the same clubs vying for positions. Each club devises its own ritual for determining placement on a team; some have challenge ladders, others round robins, still others defer to the judgment of the teaching pro.

For instance, this year Fairbanks Ranch Country Club had enough players to form a C team for the first time, and a round robin was organized by Anita Edman Stoefen, social director and assistant pro. Since the club already fielded a B team, a short challenge period was arranged for people wanting to earn a position at that level.

The organizers at Stoneridge Country Club try something different every year to satisfy people, according to Jeanne Lucia, the women's tennis representative for the club. This year they tried a six-week challenge period in which new teams declared their intentions and the positions they aspired to on the ladder.

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