No slowdown: Cape Breton tennis players proving age is just a number

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SYDNEY, NS – As the morning sun shines on the Cromarty Tennis Club, Shirley Hodgson and Jane Fifield stand side by side on the blue, white and green courts.

The two share a smile as they anticipate their opponent’s next move. As the green ball crosses the net, Hodgson moves to her left and hits it to continue a rally.

Although they look like ordinary tennis players, the people of Sydney do more than play the sport they love.

In fact, the two friends prove that age is just a number. Hodgson turned 86 on Monday, while Fifield is 81.

While many are getting ready for work or are already there, Hodgson and Fifield are regulars every morning between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. at the local tennis club playing with the senior group.


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Fifield admits she doesn’t know what she would do without sports during the summer months.

“When I’m on the tennis court, especially on a sunny day, I just thank God for giving me the strength to be able to stand up, feel so good and keep playing this great game,” said Fifield.

“I told my daughter the other day that I felt younger now at 81 than when I was 20. I feel like I have so much strength, I am at peace on the courts, and it brings me so much joy.

Like Fifield, Hodgson is grateful that she can always be active in the sport and can’t wait to get up each morning, pick up her racquet and hit the courts.

“It’s a sport that no matter how young or how old you are, it’s something that anyone can play,” said Hodgson, whose favorite tennis player is Roger Federer. “It’s good exercise and a lot of fun.”

Getting started in the game

Hodgson was first introduced to the sport in 1949 by a longtime friend. The 13-year-olds at the time were members of the Cromarty club but were rarely able to enter the courts as they were still in use.

Instead, the two would hit the ball back and forth on Harrison Avenue and only go onto the courts when no one was around.

“The courts were filled with young people and by the time we got there we never knew when they would be over,” said Hodgson, who before retiring worked at the Old Sydney City Hospital.

“We always played in the streets, we never had a net and all we did was chase the ball down the road when it passed us, so I have fond memories.”

Over the years, Hodgson never returned to the courts, but his passion for the sport never died. She watched tournaments on TV but never really knew how to play because she had never been taught.

One day while reading the Cape Breton Post, she saw an advertisement for adult tennis lessons on Mondays and Thursdays at the Sydney site. After thinking about it, she decided to give it a try – she was 67 at the time.

“My husband was deceased and I really didn’t have anyone to go to class with, so I continued to postpone and eventually went on my own,” said Hodgson, who is currently the oldest member of the club.

“The first year was for classes and after that I became a member again and they have always supported me ever since. I went there without knowing anything or how to use the racquet or how to hit the balls and here I am today.

Shirley Hodgson, left, and Jane Fifield are shown in action at the Cromarty Tennis Club in Sydney on Friday morning. Although they are both 80 years old, the people of Sydney like to go to the courts every morning between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. to play the sport they love in the summer. JESSICA SMITH / CAP-BRETON POST.

Inspired by his children

Like Hogdson, Fifield didn’t know much about the game and never shied away from playing the sport until she enrolled her children for tennis lessons in Sydney River.

“When I took the kids to the courts I noticed there were adult tennis lessons in the evenings and I made the decision to give it a try,” Fifield said. “I convinced a few friends to come meet new people, but most have since given up or are no longer with us.”

Fifield has been playing the sport for almost 45 years and still shares the pitch with his daughter from time to time.

“I’ve always loved tennis and felt there was something about the sport that you could play for a long time and I certainly do,” said Fifield. “I quit for a few years when my grandchildren were younger, but now they’re 18 and 20.

Fifield recognized the social aspect of the sport and the opportunity to spend time with other senior players every morning.

“The people at the club are so nice, it’s almost like family,” said Fifield, who before his retirement worked in Fabricville in Sydney.

“Everyone is always so happy to see each other and we’re all kidding. A guy over there calls me “Mum” because when my daughter plays with us she always says “Mum” when she wants to get my attention – it’s all fun. “

Moving forward

Hodgson, who doesn’t consider herself the best player, said before this season she had never really felt her age on the pitch, but that doesn’t mean she plans to quit playing anytime soon. .

“I slow down a bit and that’s why some days I don’t always show up, but they say I’m still pretty fast, I can still move around the court,” said Hodgson, who before the COVID pandemic -19 was a bowler and skater during the winter months.

“I always really have fun and having something to look forward to is always nice in the summer – we can’t take things for granted, especially these days in the world of COVID-19.”

Fifield has said she will not let Hodgson resign and tells him so regularly.

“She needs to keep playing tennis – she is questioning playing next year, but I told her that I pray for her every day and I know that God will give her the strength to keep coming and going. play, ”she said.

“She still has a lot of good years in tennis and we all can’t wait to see her and play together. We love it.”

Hodgson and Fifield encourage older players to give the sport a chance.

“If you can hold a racket and you’re healthy, why not come and play,” Fifield said. “It makes you feel younger and the fresh air on the tennis court is amazing. You will not regret it.

According to the weather forecast, Hodgson and Fifield say there is no place they would rather be when the sun is shining than be active and play tennis in Sydney.

Jeremy Fraser is a sports and breaking news reporter for the Cape Breton Post. He has worked for the publication for four years. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @CBPost_Jeremy.


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