Bob Repp took his glasses off and made his way toward the tennis court.
“Hey,” yelled out Jerry Butcher. “You forgot your glasses.”
“What,” the 92-year-old Repp responded. “I don’t need those things.”
Repp, Butcher and Bob Tenyak are the three elders in a group of tennis players that meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to play tennis for 90 minutes. They’ve been doing that at Aladdin Villas for at least 20 years and in a recent email that provided a photo of the group, the subject was: Old Guys Rule.
“I have a hard time sometimes keeping up with them,” said Butcher, the baby in the group who just turned 84. Meanwhile the more “experienced” Tenyak is 87 and Repp is 92. “We play 70-year-old and sometimes 60-year-olds and we definitely keep up with them, if not trounce them occasionally.”
Those are the words of a preacher man, so you can take them to heart.
Butcher actually started playing tennis with a group of pastors in Ohio. They would play at 7 a.m. every Wednesday “to get our frustrations out – it’s much better to hit a tennis ball than the congregation,” Butcher joked.
Aladdin Villas, Butcher said, has a strong history and tradition of playing tennis. Butcher said that the numbers have dropped and pointed to the popularity and meteoric rise of pickleball as one of the reasons.
“Well, tennis players can play pickleball,” Butcher said. “But pickleball players can’t necessarily play tennis. I don’t play pickleball though. I like the exercise from tennis.”
Butcher said that there are six to eight netters who come out pretty much religiously for camaraderie, competition and, mainly, exercise, adding that the group have all had their health issues but have been able to bounce back and keep their hardcourt time going.
“Sometimes when we have six or seven players, we’ll rotate players,” Butcher said. “Sometimes we like that little bit of rest period. If someone would have asked me to go jump up and down in the street for an hour and a half, I would say no way but if you put a tennis racket in my hand and suddenly it’s a different story.”
Butcher had nothing but praise for his other two “Old Guys Rule” friends.
“They really keep up with the young people very well,” Butcher said.
“Bob really gets the ball back and he’s been around awhile. When you’re an old tennis player you have to play smart – if you can’t be that good, you gotta be that smart to take care of those younger players.
Another trick that Butcher has up his sleeve – well both sleeves actually – is that he’s an ambidextrous player.
“Well I serve only with my right hand,” he said. “But I can return the ball with either hand. I fell once a few years back trying to take that ‘third step’ to reach a ball. At our age we shouldn’t be taking that ‘third step’ so being able to return the ball with either hand saves me a step.”
That’s why the “Old Guys Rule.”