Story from Your Observer.
Deep massages, strength training and a little friendly competition around Longboat Key — that’s what tennis player Larry Greenspon cites as some of the biggest factors for staying in playing shape. He’ll need all of those to help him bring his A-game in July at his fifth Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Greenspon is a fixture in Longboat Key tennis, having played at the Longboat Key Club, Cedars Tennis Resort and Longboat Key Public Tennis Center and having won the Observer Challenge several times.
He gets on the court at least once a day to hone his game, and it’s helped him go far. The Maccabiah Games, an every-four-years, Olympics-type event for Jewish athletes, brings strong competition with about 10,000 athletes present, but Greenspon has always risen to the occasion. The first time he competed was in 2001.
“I was just amazed,” Greenspon said. “It was life-changing learning about Israel. I met people from all over the world because over 80 countries send a team.”
The competition is friendly but fierce, he said, and athletes hold each other to strict standards with regards to line calls. To prepare, Greenspon is adding some friendly local competition to his roster. He played in the Longboat Key USTA Senior Clay Courts Level 2 Tournament, which drew 386 players from the U.S. and Canada, in late November to start getting in match mode.
“The level of competition is high,” Greenspon said. “They’re my age and you can’t believe how these guys move. It’s fun, and it’s going to help my game.”
Greenspon, now 73, has adapted his game and the approach to it over the years. He’s had two shoulder surgeries and dealt with back issues, so as he’s aged, a more well-rounded approach has been necessary. He tries to stay cognizant of how his body is feeling and regularly gets deep tissue massages to keep things loose.
“I’ve got a therapist that just beats me up,” Greenspon said.
After his surgeries, he worked with a physical therapist on improving his range of motion and once he saw progress, began working on strength training along with his regular tennis routine. It helps him power his serves and returns.
“It’s interesting because I really got into it (strength training) last summer, and the guys I’m playing with noticed,” Greenspon said. “Now that I’ve got my range of motion better, all of a sudden my serve’s got a pop in it … We all have injuries and it’s a matter of just working through them so they don’t bother you when you play.”.
To qualify for the tournament, Greenspon traveled to West Palm to play round robin singles and doubles. A team of six in the division will go. A lot of the same players try out tournament after tournament, so Greenspon has made friends whom he’s glad to see on the court. He’s also glad to be heading back to Israel. After he went for the first time in 2001, he made a point to travel there several times a year, especially with his involvement with the Israel Tennis Center. When he returns in July, though, it’ll be for the first time in four years.
“The games are part of what got me back into my religion,” Greenspon said. “It brought me back to my roots. I’m feeling good about being back.”
About the athlete
Tennis has always been there for Greenspon throughout his life. He started playing right after college and was introduced to Longboat Key, like so many others, through tennis. Other than his appearances in the Maccabiah Games, Greenspon has played in the Pan Am Games. He’s enjoyed traveling through tennis, and credits the Maccabiah Games with reconnecting him to his religion. His first trip to the Games was his first trip to Israel.
“It’s just fascinating being there, to see things you read about or heard about,” Greenspon said. “The opening ceremony is comparable to the Olympics … What was life changing for me was I learned about the Israel Tennis Centers. A Longboat Key guy had done a fundraiser for the Israel Tennis Center and I learned about it when I got back. I took over the fundraiser and it changed my life.”
Greenspon got involved with tournaments and tennis lessons for kids with the Israel Tennis Centers, which is the largest social service agency for kids in Israel. They start kids in tennis at 5 and keep them in throughout their lives, building friendships and life skills. Due to Greenspon’s involvement, the major center there is named after him. Coincidentally, that’s where Maccabiah Games matches get played.
“I get to play matches on my court that’s in my name,” Greenspon said.
Greenspon isn’t the only local heading to the games, nor is he the only Greenspon. His nephew will compete in hockey for the first time in the over-40 division, so the Greenspons are making it a family affair and traveling to Israel together.
Across the Ringling Bridge, Sarasota High School sophomore Elias Corn was selected for the swim team and will compete in Israel, too.