Cardio Tennis is one of the fastest growing programs of its kind in the United States. It has been endorsed by the U.S. Tennis Association and is in more than 800 tennis clubs throughout the country.
One is the South Towns Tennis Center in Orchard Park, where tennis director Stephen Sayoc not only runs the program but is a walking endorsement for it.
Sayoc, 36, is in superb physical shape, participates in most of the Cardio Tennis drills with his students, and has a sparkling personality that greatly aids him in promoting and teaching the program.
"Cardio Tennis is virtually nonstop movement, lots of fun, and gives players a chance to meet other players at their same level," Sayoc said. "Workouts are so fast-paced that participants use heart-rate monitors. Cardio Tennis' goal is to have each player reach 65 to 85 percent of his or her maximum heart rate in 40 to 50 minutes."
Sayoc says all participants receive an incredible workout because they're constantly moving, working on their own reaction time and improving their hand-eye coordination. He tries to have six to eight students on a court. Sayoc starts his program with 5 to 10 minutes of mini-tennis. However, the players are constantly moving back and forth as fast as they can, unlike regular mini-tennis drills in which players move very slowly.
From there, Sayoc uses a foam training ball that is tossed all over the court. The players run after it, catching, throwing and picking the ball up. The ball is thrown at different angles and the participants are constantly on the move. It doesn't take long for players to start breaking a sweat.
Another of his routines is a lunge volley drill. He feeds balls to his students as they approach the net at different angles. After they hit two or three volleys in this manner they go to the end of the line, hopping or skipping through a rope ladder on the outside of the court until it is their turn to volley again. So they are moving, whether or not they are hitting volleys.
Another drill that is popular with Sayoc's students occurs when seven to nine tennis balls are placed in the middle of the court. Participants' rackets are placed around the outside of the court. The first player to pick up three balls from the middle of the court and place them on their racket wins the game. The catch: Only one ball at a time can be picked up, and each player can steal balls from other players' rackets where balls have been placed. The constant running, which in essence is simulated wind sprints, provides an amazing cardio workout.
Sayoc also does drills that include jumping rope, jumping jacks and going over hurdles. Another nonstop movement that he uses is to simulate some of the ways skiers move. This may be the most strenuous workout of all.
It is evident that Sayoc's students love the program.
"Cardio Tennis is as good a workout as any aerobic class that I've ever taken, and it's a lot more fun," Amy Kelly said.
"Tennis is a lot of fun, but with cardio tennis it's even better," said Helen Igoe.
"Cardio Tennis develops your tennis skills and you get better without feeling like you are practicing tennis," said Kitty Turano. "Stephen gives us a fantastic workout."
For further information on Cardio Tennis call Sayoc at 662-9396.
Andre Pozantidis, 14, Olga Khmylev, 14, and Andre Binder, 16, each finished in the top three in tournaments Jan. 21-23.
Pozantidis, of Kenmore, is a freshman at Christian Academy. He recently won the Eastern Sectional 14-under Closed Tournament in Albany. He defeated the Nos. 2 and 7 seeds on his way to a win in the finals over No. 5 seed Chidi Gabriel, 6-4, 6-3. He is the first local youngster to win this tournament since Neil Simon 20 years ago. Pozantidis is ranked 10th in the Eastern 14-under group.
Khmylev resides in Williamsville, attends Williamsville East, and is the daughter of Iouri Khmylev, a former Buffalo Sabre. She reached the finals of the Midwest Winter Championships in Dayton, Ohio, losing in the finals, 7-6, 7-6, to No. 3 seed Monica Yajima of Connecticut. Khmylev ranked third in the East in 14-under. Pozantidis and Khmylev play out of the Village Glen.
Binder, of Amherst, finished third in the 16-under boys' division of the Dayton tournament. He defeated third seed Michael Lynn, 6-2, 6-3, in the second round and Stan Vogl, 6-3, 6-1, in the playoff for third. He is ranked 148th nationally and 21st in the East in the 14-under division.
For the record
Julia Drury is Dartmouth's No. 1 squash player, not No. 2, as was stated in this column two weeks ago.