By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
Jody Anne Popple and Margaret Coughlan, co-captains of the USTA Eastern Adult 18 & Over 2.5 team, share perspectives about the many physical and mental benefits of tennis, both as dedicated players and health care professionals.
The pair have lead their team, based out of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to the USTA League National Championships in Indian Wells, Calif. What’s more, they’re not shy about sharing their feelings about how much tennis brings to a person’s life.
Coughlan, who began playing tennis four years ago, is a medical doctor who practices family medicine and reminds her patients of the benefits of exercise, encouraging them to find some physical activity they enjoy. Many of them do play tennis and were thrilled to hear of her trip to the National Championships.
“I tell patients I can’t tolerate them saying they don’t have time to exercise,” Coughlan said. “I’m working, with three kids and I’ve been playing tennis five days a week.
“The No. 1 benefit [of exercise] is for overall cardiovascular health. I recommend to start out slow, find something they enjoy and stick to and make it part of your schedule. I personally enjoy exercise where there is a game or something involved in it.”
Popple is a clinical psychologist who works primarily with children and families. She picked up a tennis racquet for the first time three years ago at a clinic. From there, she was recruited by a tennis pro to play in a USTA League and has been hooked ever since.
“It’s a whole new puzzle. I found it to be a very mental game. That’s what draws me in and keeps me in,” she said. “The athleticism is one thing, but figuring out your opponent, your own style, how to cover the court, I like that aspect of it.”
Popple said her work has helped her as both a co-captain and player. While she calls her position of team co-captain, “a mental exercise,” she is constantly reminding herself to do certain things on the court during her matches.
“We’re always teaching how to self-regulate and to keep your cool and not be emotionally reactive, all of that applies to any sport,” she said.
“I think of slowing down, not getting ahead of myself, breathing and telling myself to do these things. I don’t have the [doubles] partner most of the time to be doing that,” she added of her singles play. “As a coach, I remind people to smile and remember it’s fun and to remember that we’re here because of the friendships. That’s what drew us in."