When Tempe resident Katie O’Neill decided to take up tennis, choosing the allwomen’s tennis clinic at Kiwanis Park Recreation Center was a no-brainer.
"I’d never played tennis before," said O’Neill, who has spent more time on the sidelines watching her children’s tennis matches than on the court. "(In this class) I feel more confident and equal with the other players."
Despite the high profiles of female athletes like tennis player Serena Williams and soccer star Mia Hamm, there are still some women who prefer to make their first mistakes in a sports class in front of a female audience.
"Women feel more comfortable in this environment," said clinic instructor Toni Logan. "It’s the same reason why women would go to a women’s-only fitness gym. They are less self-conscious, less inhibited and that probably adds to their ability to focus."
Women tend to be more prone to suffer from social physique anxiety — the dislike or fear of having your body seen in public, said Pamela Swan, a professor with the exercise and wellness department at Arizona State University East.
"There’s an understanding that women have different experiences coming into any kind of exercise setting because of cultural reasons," Swan said. "In a tennis class it would make perfect sense for you to limit it to camaraderie and a level playing field."
Tim Barnes, tennis coordinator for Kiwanis Park Recreation Center, created the class almost two years ago at the request of a patron who "suggested that some women prefer sharing the learning process together and feel more comfortable learning tennis around players who are less prone to be aggressive and/or powerful."
That’s the reason Jennifer Brooking, 30, enrolled in the clinic.
"Men have that natural predilection to hit hard when they swing," she said.
Most women stick with the class until they feel comfortable with their skill level and then move on to co-ed classes.
For information on upcoming sessions, call Barnes at (480) 350-5721.