One Love Clinics Highlight Health Benefits of Tennis
Ron Tankel and Michael-Ray Pallares are on a mission to use tennis as a tool to help individuals with mental health issues. Their One Love clinics brought that mission to Kansas City for a third straight year.
Pallares, an ITF-certified tennis coach, and Tankel, a certified therapeutic recreational specialist, are both on the USTA Adaptive Tennis Committee. For the third consecutive year in 2023, they worked with Synergy Services to run a Tennis for Behavioral Health Pilot Program in Kansas City. The program provides a safe and structured space for at-risk youth dealing with behavioral or mental health struggles to develop life and social skills through tennis programming and drills.
Tennis is widely acclaimed for its numerous health and social benefits for all its players, but Pallares and Tankel are able to take these benefits one step further through One Love. They put these benefits at the forefront and actively use tennis as the vehicle to help at-risk youth improve their mental well-being.
Just a few of the life skills Pallares mentions are self-esteeem, socialization, team-building, time management of skill development.
"For each of these categories, we created tennis drills and activities that pinpoint those specific issues," Pallares said. "It's unbelievable the impact that this has on the children playing tennis here in the community."
They ran the programs over the course of two weeks at Macken Park and Northland Racquet Club and one of the things Tankel is most proud of is that it is a voluntary program for each of the kids.
:"These kids that come to these programs, it's their choice," Tankel said. "There are other activities that are going on at the same time at the facility that they come from. So they're here because they want to be here and they come back because they want to come back."
Pallares and Tankel both point to the instant gratification of tennis, specifically, as an extra benefit when it comes to kids with behavioral issues. Being able to see the skills develop in real-time helps exponentially with self-esteem. Something as simple as seeing a ball go over the net and land in the court makes a huge impact and provides an instant reward and self-esteem boost that you might not find in other sports.
The social aspect of tennis and the One Love program is another massive benefit for its participants. The opportunity to socialize with other like-minded youth helps the kids learn important social skills in a low-stress environment while the tennis drills give them something else to focus on.
Other benefits Pallares and Tankel have seen among program participants include increased motivation, better emotional regulation and overall increased happiness. Tankel points to all these results as proof that tennis can be a viable form of therapy when used correctly for some people struggling with mental or emotional troubles.
They look forward to continuing their work and using tennis as a therapeutic tool for more players in the coming years. To read more about their research and findings, click here to read their interviews with two professional psychiatrists who have also seen tennis be used as an agent of positive change.