This winter, Danny Finnegan ’17 introduced Deerfield to the joy of paddle tennis. The Friday Night Paddle League has put the two courts near the Lower Levels to more frequent use.
While talking with faculty and friends about how Deerfield weekends could be more exciting, Finnegan presented the idea of paddle tennis. Curious to see if anyone else shared his passion, he sent an email to the school to see how many people would be interested. Within the next few days he received more than 50 emails from students eager to play.
Paddle tennis was adapted from tennis and is played on a smaller court inside a cage. Unlike tennis, paddle tennis is played with a solid “paddle” instead of a strung racquet and uses depressurized balls made for frigid weather.
Originating in New England, paddle tennis uses the same scoring system and logistics as tennis with one twist:. if a ball is hit hard enough to bounce once in the court and then off the back “chicken wire,” a player can return the ball before it hits the ground for a second time. This adds another element of finesse and skill to an already fast-paced and reaction-based game.
The first Friday night started with about 25 students who partnered up to just hit around.
Molly Murphy ’15 said, “I signed up because I used to play at home and I didn’t realize until Danny started the league that so many other people played as well. I was so happy when he sent out that email because I realized how many other people play or want to learn, even though before this the courts were barely used!”
The league has attracted a range of students from those with previous paddle experience to those who want to try it for the first time. After various skill-level teams were created, each team received seeds for the tournament, which was scheduled for the following weekend. After the seeds were announced, the paddle leaguers began the tournament with the round of 32. These matches will continue until the winner is announced on the final Friday of the tournament.
The league provides students with an opportunity to try something different every Friday night and is open to anyone.
C.J. York ’15 said, “I used to play a lot when I was younger but hadn’t played much in the last couple years, so I was really excited to get back into it. It’s a ton of fun to be able to play a casual match with friends on Friday, when not much is going on at school, and it’s nice to be able to get outside during a time of year where you’re spending so much time indoors.”
Finnegan and other players hope to have a buy-in for tournaments in the future. The winners of the contest would receive a prize, ranging from a new racquet to customized apparel.
When asked if he plans to continue this league, Finnegan said, “I think this Paddle Tennis League will finish strong this winter and will continue to be a success in future winters.”