A workout for mind and body

Oak Crest residents stay active on and off the tennis courts

Created date

April 28th, 2020
Neighbors Andy Lioi (left) and Jim Griffin (right) are members of the Oak Crest tennis team. Shown here with Wellness Coordinator Renee Hill at last year’s Erickson Living Tennis Tournament.

Neighbors Andy Lioi (left) and Jim Griffin (right) are members of the Oak Crest tennis team. Shown here with Wellness Coordinator Renee Hill at last year’s Erickson Living Tennis Tournament.

While many kids his age idolized Johnny Unitas and Jackie Robinson, at ten years old Jim Griffin was so impressed by tennis greats like Roy Emerson and Lew Hoad, he decided to take up the sport. Now, sixty-five years later, you can still find him on the tennis court at least twice a week.

“Tennis has allowed me to compete, meet interesting people, and stay in shape,” says Jim. 

In 2018, Jim and his wife Janice moved from Phoenix, Md., to Oak Crest, the Parkville community managed by Erickson Living. It didn’t take Jim long to discover others who share his passion.

“There are currently eight of us who play year-round. Our outdoor season is about 18 weeks, and we play indoors the rest of the year. There are outdoor courts right down the street from Oak Crest on Walther Boulevard and an indoor facility, Northeast Regional Recreation Center, near Perring Parkway,” says Jim. “I also play once a week with a mixed doubles group outside of Oak Crest that I’ve been playing with since the 1980s.”

Team player

Andrew ‘Andy’ Lioi is the captain of the eight-member Oak Crest tennis team.

“Prior to moving to Oak Crest in 2008, I played at the Towson YMCA for 30 years,” says Andy. “After I moved, I spread the word to see if there were any tennis players here in the community.”

In no time at all, the Oak Crest league formed. 

“Tennis is a great sport for older people,” says Andy. “It involves some degree of exercise and activity, but you can really play at your own pace. It’s not just a physical game, but also a mental game. 

“When the ball is coming to you, you have to finesse and hit the ball so that your opponent can’t return it and you get the point. So, the whole time you’re thinking ‘Do I want to hit the ball hard? Soft? Do I want to put a curve or a cut on it?’” he continues. “It’s the type of sport when you do good you are elated and happy, but when you make a bad shot you feel bad, so it plays on your emotions.”

Andy may be on to something. Scientists at the University of Illinois reported that the alertness and tactical thinking skills that tennis requires may actually generate new connections between nerves in the brain, which promotes continuing cognitive development. And experts at the National Institutes of Health found exercise from leisure-time activities can extend life expectancy as much as 4.5 years.

Oak Crest Fitness Center Manager Julie Sega says tennis is a great lifelong sport for all ages.

“Tennis has many health benefits,” Sega explains. “It’s great for hand-eye coordination, reaction time, social activity; it improves agility, flexibility, balance, and muscle tone. It also helps keep the immune system strong, lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, aids in weight loss, increases energy and aerobic capacity, and keeps the brain endorphins boosting.”

Jim says playing tennis has increased his ability to focus as he grows older. 

“In tennis, you have to constantly focus on what is happening. After each play, we announce the score to the other team, which forces us to recall what just happened, as well as predict what is going to happen next. My experience in tennis is that points are more often lost than won. You win by making fewer mistakes and not being too upset about the mistakes you do make.” says Jim, who also swims, does yoga, plays softball, and works out at the on-site fitness center two to three times a week. 

Tennis tourney

Last fall, the Oak Crest tennis team competed in the Erickson Living Tennis Tournament hosted by sister community Riderwood in Silver Spring. Residents from Charlestown in Catonsville and Greenspring in Springfield, Va., also participated, but a portion of the day belonged to the team from Parkville.

In the finals of the men’s doubles division, Andy and Jim defeated the Charlestown squad to earn the title. In a scheduling quirk, the winning team had played their teammates from Oak Crest, Bob and Dick, in a competitive semi-final match. The group is always looking to expand its reach to all residents of Oak Crest; the Erickson Living tourney also includes men’s, women’s and mixed double’s divisions.

“We have a good crew who have been playing together for a few years, but we are always looking for new people to join us. We welcome anyone who is interested. It’s good exercise and a great way to develop friendships here at Oak Crest,” says Jim.