Love for the community and an understanding of people draw tennis instructor George Pensky to the courts every day.
Likewise, those same attributes attract the residents of Oro Valley to Pensky and Cañada del Oro Riverfront Park, where they learn tennis, get exercise and meet new friends.
"I love to work with the community – with kids and adults," Pensky said. "People take lessons not only to play tennis – everyone has a reason. I have a lot of seniors; they want to be together with other people and have their own time to exercise and have fun. And for kids, it takes them away from video games. Parents say 'thank you' for teaching my kid to want to play and be outside. I get them excited about something and they enjoy what they're doing."
Pensky grew up in Uruguay, playing competitive tennis as a junior, then attended La Academia in Montevideo. There, he served as director of tennis for 12 years before following family to Arizona in 2003.
"At first I went to the park and saw nobody training there," he recalled. So he approached Oro Valley Parks & Recreation about a position, and has been teaching tennis at Riverfront Park ever since.
Pensky's book quickly filled up with both private and group lessons. He teaches all levels, from beginners to competitive players, and has students as young as 3-1/2 up to 89 years old. One of the juniors he worked with is now a top nationally ranked player.
"Another kid came with a skateboard. He'd never played before. Now he's No. 6 in the Southwest."
Some people just want to be outdoors and have fun, said Pensky, while others want to be competitive. No matter what his students' motivation is, their instructor comes to the court for the love of the game and because he cares about those he teaches. Sometimes he'll match people to play with each other even if they don't take lessons.
Pensky has encountered limited facilities in Oro Valley. Parks & Recreation has one tennis court, he noted. If he had more courts, he could expand the program, hold more camps and tournaments and still have courts for residents who just want to come out and play. He speaks sadly about the lack of space for people to engage in his favorite sport.
"The Oro Valley people want to get out and do things. I'm on one court. I'm so busy. I feel bad when people come and ask for the court because my goal is to see that everyone can play. There's another park on Lambert west of La Cañada. There they could build a few courts," he suggested. "We really need that. I fight for it every day."
During summers, Pensky is able to use the courts at Ironwood Ridge and Canyon Del Oro high schools for camp, which runs Monday-Thursday 8:30-10:30 a.m. He also runs adult and junior tournaments when he has additional courts.
Another area of expertise Penksy enjoys sharing is speaking Spanish. He recently began leading a conversational Spanish group at Oro Valley Library twice a week. It's primarily for people who are traveling to Mexico and want to improve their Spanish so they can converse, he said. It's fun for him because, he admitted, "I like to talk. Plus, I like to be busy and it can be a good idea to be involved."
Whether it's in the classroom or on the court, Pensky encourages all who are interested in having fun, improving their skills or learning something new to call Parks & Recreation to sign up for lessons. And with enough interest, perhaps the town can find a way to build a few more courts.
Tennis at CDO Riverfront Park
551 West Lambert Lane
Oro Valley Parks & Recreation: 229-5050
www.orovalleyaz.gov (Select Parks & Recreation under Residents)