It's a bit ironic that the game we now know as tennis actually is believed to have originated in the monastic cloisters of 12th century France, given that tennis is one of the most social games on the planet.

"You can't play tennis by yourself," agreed Andrea Masoncup, Assistant Superintendent of Recreation at the John B. Norris Recreation Center. Tennis has many benefits for adults who want to acquire new skills, brush up on rusty ones, or expand their social circle through the addition of a mentally and physically challenging game that can easily become part of a healthy daily lifestyle.

This "come out and have fun" philosophy is the impetus behind one of the Norris Recreation Center's most popular programs, "Friday Night Lights." For two hours, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM, friends and neighbors, coworkers and couples, and even complete strangers, can spend the evening socializing while participating in a friendly competition. At the end of the competition, players are invited to hang around for pizza and pop to make the evening as big a hit as the shots lobbed over the tennis court nets.

"This is a fun social event for our members, but we also have people each time who do not regularly play with each other," said Masoncup. "Our tennis pro will jump in and help the play along, if needed. It's a great atmosphere to play tennis and socialize and meet new people."

To participate in the round-robin, doubles tournament on "Friday Night Lights," players must have a 3.5 USTA rating and above. The guidelines are available at the U.S. Tennis Association web site (www.usta.com) and provide a way for players to self-rank their skills.

"Each level tells you what you should be able to do, skill-wise," said Masoncup. "We ask that players in the 'Friday Night Lights' events self-rate to make it competitive and fun for everyone. This levels the playing field so that someone who is new to the game will not be playing with a more advanced player."

Some examples of the proficiencies determined at the 3.5 USTA level are stroke dependability and direction control; lobs, overheads and approach shots; and ability to easily rally from the baseline.

But if these skill sets seem beyond one's capability, not to worry. The Norris Recreation Center's Adult Group Tennis program also offers instruction to everyone from beginners to more proficient players through Men's and Co-ed Drill & Play programs.

The tennis program is overseen by tennis pro supervisor, Bill Dahm and his staff of pro players: Michael Basham, Kevin Flanagan, Tom Girdler, Lance Gorman and Jose Rivas. Each Norris Recreation Center pro brings years of professional instructional experience,

For those who are just learning the basics of tennis or have played in the past and feeling a little rusty, the Adult Beginner/Advanced Beginner class may be just the ticket. Instruction includes ground strokes, volleys and serves, as well as movement skills and a review of tennis rules, etiquette and strategy.

The Men's Drill & Play class, for instance, consists of fast-paced skill drills that focus on both singles and doubles play for players rated USTA 3.5 and above. Thirty to forty-five minutes of match play concludes the class. The Co-Ed Mixed Drill & Play shifts its focus to doubles play with some singles drills added, and works on all areas of the game including situational tennis and strategy.

"We have grown in terms of the programming we offer," said Masoncup. "The area has a strong high school program that can lead to a strong adult participation. And the nice thing about tennis is that it is a sport that lasts as long as you want to play it. You can play from childhood into senior years and can play it all year long on our indoor courts."

For more information about the Norris Recreation Center tennis programs, call 630-377-1405 or visit the Norris Recreation Center in person. The Center is located on the campus of St. Charles East High School at 1050 Dunham Road.