During the winter most racket enthusiasts play tennis, squash, racquetball, or badminton indoors. However, there is one racket sport that is played outdoors, regardless of the weather. The sport is platform tennis.
The game is played on a 30-feet by 60-feet court that has a heated aluminum decking or ground-level concrete as a base flooring. The heated floor makes it easy to shovel even on the worst snow days. There is a taut, 12-foot high chicken wire fencing surrounding the entire court. Shots are played that are similar to shots off the wall that are used in squash or racquetball. There is a 3-foot high net and the courts are lined like they are in tennis.
Although the sport is similar to tennis such as 15-30-40 scoring and the ball cannot bounce twice during play there are some notable exceptions. The usual game that is played is doubles; although there is some singles involved. Most local players play only doubles. You are only allowed one serve and serves that touch the net are lets and are in play. Shots may be hit into the chicken wire and can be played off the rebound.
As for equipment, platform tennis balls are sponge rubber versus tennis balls that are pressurized. They are sold in a sleeve that hold three balls and costs about $15.00 ($5 a ball). Rackets are made of a solid composite with aerodynamic holes, are 18 inches long and range in price from $100-150. The drilled holes allow players to hit the ball with a great amount of spin.
As for clothing, anything that is warm and comfortable is fine and wearing gloves is recommended. Regular tennis sneakers are usually used by most players.
Paul Herlan plays out of the Saturn Club and is instrumental in running their platform tennis programs. He is also on the American Platform Tennis’ National Board’s Growth Committee.
“When you play platform tennis your objective should be to have patience, keep the ball in play until you have opportunity to put the ball away, with either a volley or overhead,” he said.
Chris Ross, who plays out of the Country Club of Buffalo, says, “The size of the court gives you a big advantage in doubles that you don’t have on a tennis court. Due to the smaller court size you are always in close proximity to your partner at all times and it is much easier to communicate with each other.
Bob Shookus, another CCB member, relates that sportsmanship is nonpareil in platform tennis. “If a player isn’t sure if a shot is good or out they almost invariably give the benefit of the doubt to their opponents,” Shookus said.
Other reasons that the game is so popular and fun to play:
• With the court beings screened, the ball is kept in play much longer than in tennis because of the bounce that tends to give the player more time to hit the ball.
• Players of all ages and skill levels can quickly pick up the game. It is an excellent sport for families to participate in together.
• Once you have started playing platform tennis you will find that you will want to play as much as possible.
• There is the challenge of playing in different kinds of weather. The ball bounces higher when it is hot and becomes heavier in the wet weather and can even skid on some points. A wet platform ball leads to a variety of difference bounces.
As for the game nationally, Herlan relates that Rochester has almost 700 players and over 30 courts. Chicago has the largest league play in the United States with over 2,500 players. Other hot beds are Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and various cities in Connecticut.
Platform tennis is played mainly at the Country Club of Buffalo, Saturn Club, and in East Aurora. Harlen keeps control of the competition by running leagues that comprise players who play at CCB and the Saturn Club. East Aurora has its own program.
Although platform tennis is as popular as it has ever been this wasn’t so about 10 years ago.
The courts at both CCB and the Saturn Club were not in good shape during that time and weren’t used as much as they could have been.
Dave Jentch, a leading platform tennis player from East Aurora was instrumental in getting a wonderful court built in East Aurora and the site was used by many players.
When CCB and the Saturn Club saw the success of the facility, they decided to redo their courts and we now have three outstanding facilities in the area.