Tennis as a means to wellness

Rishan Kuruppu on the court. Photograph courtesy Rishan Kuruppu.
The sport has psychological as well as physical benefits.
Rishan Kuruppu on the court. Photograph courtesy Rishan Kuruppu.

Rishan Kuruppu is the director of tennis at Roton Point Club in Rowayton as well as senior head professional of ProForm Tennis Academy in Rye Brook. I met him several years ago during one of my signature group fitness classes and we have had a great relationship ever since. He has been nationally and internationally recognized for his contributions within the tennis industry. I was excited to sit down with him and ask him some questions about the game of tennis and its benefits.

What are some physical requirements for tennis?

“Tennis is a sport that requires … mobility, flexibility, strength and balance. At all levels of the game a player’s ability to stay proactive versus reactive is paramount and stressed repeatedly, which elevates the need to stay focused on the physical requirements. As the (player’s) tennis game evolves so does the need to physically sharpen the physical requirements in order to maximize potential improvement and minimize the risk of injury.”

Can tennis improve your health?

“That’s a great question, Giovanni. Without a doubt tennis can play a role in one’s overall health. The areas of significance arise in cardiovascular health, respiratory circulation and growth and increased potential for BDNF, which stands for brain derived neurotropic factor. 

As more and more tennis players are emerging even at later stages in their lives, I am noticing an improvement in their attitudes and beliefs toward overall limitations that once seemed too insurmountable even to attempt. I am a firm believer that the game is never out of reach for anyone. The presentation of skills can be modified or expanded as needed while the improvement of health through tennis can incrementally be in your favor.”

What are some principles that tennis and life share?

“I love this question. For me, it’s as simple as three letters in the alphabet CDE — which stand for consistency, discipline and energy and hold true in life and tennis. In whatever you wish to achieve, one must apply those three key foundational roots that act as connectors and deliver the right amount of productivity and purpose to move the needle forward.

“I have a saying, ‘Little things repeated lead to big things completed,’ which has truly been of value and positivity in my life.”

Can mindfulness be instilled in tennis?

“Very often the mere thought of concentration causes people to get anxious or even impatient. The need for mindfulness in tennis has never been more present. In my experiences working with several hundred players dealing with emotions, finding a calm state and competing internally are key drivers in performance potential. When mindfulness is trained, a player develops breathing awareness, slowing down of the game and acute problem-solving skills that minimize overreacting to the wrong triggers. In short every player should work with coaches who have a mindfulness philosophy, because it brings you a lot closer to clearer thinking.” 

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