If you've stopped by a local tennis court lately, such as the courts by Monomoy Regional Middle School in Chatham or those at Brooks Park in Harwich, you might have seen a plastic tote with a note on it. Similar to the little book libraries around the region, the boxes are Little Free Tennis Libraries and the hope is to spread them across Cape Cod.
Tennis coach Sat Jiwan Ikle-Khalsa, best known to his students as Coach SJ, said he discovered the Little Tennis Libraries while surfing Facebook.
“I'm a member of a Facebook group of tennis coaches internationally,” he said. “Someone made and took pictures of a very cute, dollhouse-sized box of tennis equipment. I thought it was a fantastic idea because a lot of times people used to play tennis or still want to play tennis and don't have equipment at their house, or it's in bad shape, or they forgot it. Now people that don't have equipment can go to the box and borrow what they need.”
After doing a bit more research online, Coach SJ realized that the libraries have been slowly catching on in various areas. He decided to give them a go in Chatham and Harwich, filling two totes with balls, donated rackets, and instructions on how best to use the Little Tennis Library.
Basic rules include returning the equipment to the boxes after use, taking care of the equipment during use, and ensuring the box is neat and ready for the next patron. Ideally, volunteers will maintain the boxes. Coach SJ is in the process of securing donation sites locally, as well.
Though based in Maryland, Coach SJ has been visiting Chatham and playing tennis here for roughly 30 years. He's hopeful that the Little Tennis Libraries will take off and become a fixture at courts all around the area.
“Hopefully there will be a fairly constant flow of equipment being used,” said Coach SJ. “I'm planning and expecting that some will get taken or damaged, but that's just the cost of doing business. For Cape Cod, I was hoping the idea would catch on and that people could adopt a court near themselves. Spend less than $20 to make a new bin. They can be self-sustaining.”
Coach SJ said what makes the game of tennis so rewarding is that anyone can play.
“It's very adaptable, even if things don't match up the way you think they should,” he said. “The skills and the fitness and the energy that seems to be around tennis is pretty amazing. I don't know that people play football, soccer, or basketball until they're 70 or 80.”
He also encourages people to take the Little Library idea and run with it.
“Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” he said. “I'd love people to steal this idea as I stole it from someone else and make it their own.”
If you're interested in creating a Little Tennis Library near you, visit www.facebook.com/LittleFreeTennisLibraries/ for guidelines. For more information about Little Tennis Libraries visit tinyurl.com/LittleFreeTennisLibraryInfo. To inquire about making donations to local boxes, email Coach SJ through his website at movingforwardtennis.com.