Michael Emmett: “Indoors or Outdoors?”

Written by: Michael Emmett


***Michael Emmett is the Director of Tennis Operations at all Mayfair clubs.  He is a certified Tennis Canada Coach 3 with a Journalism degree from the University of Texas. Michael spent several years working in sports television at TSN and Sportsnet.  Michael is a former National champion who finished his last year of junior tennis ranked #1 in Canada.  Michael has coached several National champions when he worked for the All-Canadian Academy at the National Tennis Centre at York University in the early 90s.  Michael spent 2 years traveling the world playing the ATP tour satellite circuit as a member of the Molson National Team in 1985 and ’86.***


Why would the average tennis player choose to play indoor tennis over outdoor tennis during the months May through September? Many would find it ridiculous that I’m even asking this question! It’s stunning to me how many people run for the outdoor courts and don’t return to the indoor courts until the middle of October. Quite honestly, I don’t understand the push to play outside when the game is far more enjoyable with no elements. Outdoor tennis has too many variables that I can’t control, and I want my time on court to be as flawless and inspiring as possible. I want to feel satisfied and confident after an hour on the court. I haven’t hit a ball on an outside court for over 10 years and I may never hit another ball in the deep blue sky – although, I do keep threatening to return to competitive play! For me, it’s a no-brainer – tennis inside is much more enjoyable than tennis outside, and here are 25 reasons why:

1. Fun – We all play tennis for enjoyment and satisfaction. With a controlled environment, every tennis player will hit cleaner, crisper shots indoors and leave the court feeling better about their game. Playing outdoors is the fastest way to ruin one’s confidence. If you are trying to hone your skills, it makes more sense to do it under perfect conditions. This game is so much about the proper technique – if you are attempting to improve a specific shot, it makes more sense to do it with no outside interference.

2. Availability – Go to the average outdoor club and you always have to wait during prime time hours, and usually, can’t play for more than an hour. In fact, most courts are available for 40 or 45 minutes maximum, with a line up in prime time. The same can’t be said at most indoor facilities in the summer months. Some people say, “you could shoot a cannon” through these massive facilities, and nobody would know.

3. The Rain – Who wants to play tennis when the Canadian climate is often calling for rain? The possibility exists almost on a daily basis, and one can never be sure if the match you’ve set up will actually happen. Rain is so unpredictable and it creates so many variables that throw our lives into havoc! And if the rain is hard enough, there could be an additional 2-3 hour wait. And what if it’s raining in one end of the city and not the other? Confusion is usually the end result.

4. The Wind – What can be worse than playing tennis in a 50km/h gusting winds. Tennis is a hard enough game without the wind pulling and pushing your ball in every direction. Balance is a huge part of the sport, and if it is gusty outside, swinging while balanced can be near impossible. Over-hitting while hitting into the wind is a common problem that may cause serious injury.

5. The Sun – Most of us have a hard enough time tracking the ball in perfect lighting – now add the sun, and it makes it that much more difficult, especially, at sunrise or sunset. Looking into a bright blue sky can be as disconcerting as a bright sun. As well, we all know what the sun can do to our skin. You don’t have to worry about sunblock inside.

6. Heat and Humidity – Playing in drenching conditions is never any fun – and even less fun, when you can’t hold on to the racquet because of the scorching conditions. And there are many folks, who are allergic to the sun. At the Lakeshore, we have air-conditioned courts.

7. The Cold – Sometimes in a Canadian climate, temperatures drop below seasonal temperatures during the so-called summer months. This is not a way to spend an hour of leisure time, when you could play tennis in a perfectly controlled environment indoors. Many leagues start at the end of April – these matches are played at night, where the temperature might be hovering around the zero mark. Factor in the wind chill, and you will need gloves to finish a long 3-setter.

8. The Change in Temperature – We all expect the weather to be either too hot or too cold or just perfect. But what we can’t bank on is when we start a match and it’s 17 degrees, and then, all of a sudden, the temperature has dropped 10 degrees and the wind has doubled in speed. This is when we are very susceptible to injury and sickness. And this unpredictability is what makes outdoor tennis very frustrating.

9. Coaching – It is a well-known fact that many indoor facilities have coaches with higher certification, more experience and a better overall playing ability. Many outdoor clubs like to use some pros with little or no experience, and the clinics and overall experience can leave some experienced members wanting more.

10. Injury – With slick courts due to the environment, slipping on the lines of a clay court or a hard court is a real possibility. The morning dew has caused many serious injuries and must be treated with care. Injuries, cramping and fatigue are all more likely on the outdoor courts.

11. Wellness Centre – If you suffer an injury, most indoor clubs can offer professional help to ease the pain and get you started in the healing process.

12. Extra Clothing – Nothing is worse trying to run around the court when you have several layers of clothing on trying to keep yourself warm. Creating racquet speed can be challenging at the best of times. Now try to do it with a heavy warm-up on!

13. Keeping Track of Your Tennis Balls – Outdoor courts don’t have the dividing nets that keep balls on your court.  And many outdoor courts have fences that are too low, and balls seem to find their way into the neighboring backyard and cannot ever be retrieved! Some folks spend more time tracking down their 3 tennis balls than they do actually hitting them.

14. Outside Noise – If you are particular about random noises, then playing inside will be much quieter. Tennis courts often border soccer fields and kids’ playgrounds, which can be distracting if you are having difficulty focusing.

15. Sight Lines – Indoor facilities have big green tarps at the back of the courts – these backdrops make it very easy to track the yellow tennis ball. Obviously, when the ball is traveling over 100km/hour, it is much harder to track the ball outdoors against fences with no consistent colouring. Everything is so expansive outside that the ball can get lost into almost anything.

16. Parking – Some of these clubs have limited parking, and you could be driving around for 10 minutes before you finally find something. Or even worse, you get a parking ticket for being parked illegally. All indoor facilities have more than enough parking for their clients.

17. Bugs – Having swarming black flies or mosquitoes is not fun at any time, but it is pure hell, when you are trying to play tennis. Tossing the ball into the night sky and having numerous bugs enter my eye would be enough to send me home for good.

18. Pollution – With asthma and other conditions, the pollution around these public courts can be overwhelming.

19. Allergies – Spring time can be the worst time of year for those that suffer from numerous allergies. Indoor tennis would help solve the problem.

20. Smell – Some of the nicest outdoor facilities are situated near garbage dumps, and when the wind picks up, the odors can be nauseating.

21. Locker Room – Not many outdoor clubs offer showers so that you can clean up after a good workout.  Most members enjoy a quick shower after a singles or a doubles match.

22. Sport Shops – If you break a string or need a replacement racquet, this can be accomplished within minutes at most indoor facilities.

23. Club Standards – Some outdoor clubs have courts that desperately need re-surfacing, and the nets are either too high or too low. Sometimes the lines are crooked and smudged out in certain places. Holes and divots are also rampant, as the courts struggle to survive through our winter seasons. At the indoor clubs, the quality is usually much better.

24. Pricing – The best argument in the past for outdoor play has been the cost. At Mayfair Lakeshore we are offering a Summer Play Package for $125 dollars. This means unlimited play in Non-Prime time for a very competitive price. With guaranteed tennis – this price makes this decision a simple one.

25. After-Match Cocktail or Beverage – Some people play for the social aspect of the game, and there is nothing like that post-match beer with your buddies, as you discuss the hot topics of the day. Most outdoor facilities don’t offer this service.

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