An Ottawa tennis coach has found a creative way to adapt to the latest provincial health measures and may have invented a new sport in the process.
Chris Halliday debuted "snow tennis" in Ottawa's Fisher Park earlier this week, setting up nets and offering free lessons.
A cold-weather twist on beach tennis, the sport works essentially the same and doesn't incorporate the usual bounce between hits you'd see in a tennis match on a hard court.
"All I've done is brought beach tennis to the snow," Halliday said.
"It was kind of a no-brainer to mix the two, especially considering the news we got a couple days ago in Ontario that the indoor spaces are unavailable to us for the foreseeable future."
Gyms and other indoor recreational sport facilities have been closed since Wednesday, unless they're being used by athletes training for the Olympics and Paralympics or by certain professional and elite sports leagues.
The major benefit of snow tennis, Halliday said, is it doesn't require a high level of technique. Players who've never held a racket in their life can soon play confidently, he said, while more experienced tennis players can use the sport to keep their skills honed.
It's also relatively inexpensive, as the rackets used cost around $15.
So far, the new sport is a hit, Halliday said, and he plans to continue it at least as long as the restrictions last.
"It's really easy to stay inside of your house or your apartment or wherever your safe place is," Halliday said. "And that's cool. You deserve that."
"But it's also super important to get out, move your body, socialize and for tennis players, hit a ball."
Sees potential for other winter variants
The children who've been playing are part of the summer and fall programs Halliday teaches at a nearby club. One of them, Noah Bondi, said snow tennis is a good way to be social and stay active as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
"I will keep coming out because I like tennis and I like to play in the snow," Bondi said.
Halliday said he sees potential in possibly adding winter variations to other well-known sports.
"I don't want to just make the space about tennis," Halliday said. "I want to make this for any kind of fitness professional. We could easily have outdoor soccer, winter volleyball, winter badminton — the possibilities are endless."
For now, however, the coach is focusing on creating a fun environment that gives Ottawans another way to embrace winter.
"Tennis is what I know, and I know that a lot of people, especially in this community, love it," he said. "And it shouldn't just be a six-month-a-year sport."