Though platform tennis is played in most parts of the country, it is most popular in the metropolitan corridor between Washington, D.C., and Boston. The sport’s local rise is reflected in the growth of the Greater Boston Platform Tennis League.
“Paddle is booming in our area,” a former league commissioner, Twig Burke, states on its website, www.paddlepro.com/gbptl. “We started in 1978 with five clubs and have twice expanded the league to its present state of 12 clubs and 29 teams.”
The league is divided into two sections, with the South Division made up of six private clubs — The Country Club in Brookline, Brae Burn Country Club in West Newton, Dedham Country Club, Concord Country Club, Wellesley Country Club, and Weston Golf Club — that each field several teams. Another indication of the sport’s growing popularity is the introduction of the league’s “C” level, to complement its “A” and “B” squads.
“It’s grown big time in the last three years,” said du Randt. “That’s partly because we have a couple of good players now, and also we have some pros teaching at clubs here now, and obviously they promote the game.”
The league’s growth, with Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord expected to join next season, also reflects the game’s diversity, which helps explain it’s attraction.
“You get the A players, the really, really good ones, guys like Johan, the really elite guys, young guys who are cat-like quick, it’s almost impossible to end a point on them because they can literally get everything,” said Kondon. “Because it’s always doubles, if you put two people who can move really well together, it can make for really long points.
“On the other hand, it’s a game you can play the rest of your life, because you don’t have to cover a lot of ground,” he said. “So you can be older and still be competitive, just by virtue of knowing the angles, and knowing where the ball is going to be. A lot of times, if you can play maturely, you can make up for not having great speed or agility.”
But the competition, while robust, is almost secondary to the sport’s gregarious aspects, which include outdoor grilling and on-court banter. “There’s a certain beverage element to the sport,” said Shultz, with a conspiratorial laugh.
“I guess it’s an excuse to have a beer, but that’s what makes it social,” said du Randt. “And the other thing, the court is so small, you’re always close to each other, so you can chat and socialize easier than when the court is bigger, or in singles.”
Kondon, 50, agreed. “It’s funny, because I grew up about a mile from the Concord Country Club, and I’ve been a member all my life, but I never played until I got to be about 40 or 42, when I thought I needed something to do in the wintertime,” he said.
“At our club, and I’m sure this is true for people at other clubs, the people who play paddle, that subset of that country club, is one of the most accepting, one of the most friendly groups that you’ll meet.”
Brion O’Connor can be reached at email@example.com.