After 54 years on the tennis court, Chriss Schaefer’s knee had finally had enough. But the 64-year-old Hinsdale resident wasn’t ready to hang up her racquet.
“This is something I’ve done full-time my whole life,” said Schaefer, whose only job as an adult has been as a tennis teacher and coach. She wasn’t about to let an arthritic knee get between her and the rest of her tennis career.
So, just months after a full knee replacement in June 2016, Schaefer was back on the court doing what she loves most – teaching others the sport she’s played since childhood. Told she would spend several months off the court, Schaefer got to work. If the physical therapist told her to work 15 minutes a day, she pushed herself to 20 or 30.
“I was diligent,” she said.
She also credits the skills of her surgeon, Dr. Scott Sporer of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, and her physical therapists for getting her back on the court so quickly. With her new knee in full working condition, Schaefer is back on the court 22 hours a week, sharing the sport she loves with players at Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Burr Ridge. After 35 years at the Oak Brook Racquet and Fitness Club, Schaefer joined the staff at Five Seasons two years ago. She teaches men, women and children of all ages not only to play at the best of their ability, but also to enjoy the sport.
“I try to make it fun,” she said.
Schaefer has shared her mastery of the sport with hundreds, including her own four children, two of whom played at Hinsdale Central High School. Son Mark Schaefer won the state doubles title with partner Sumant Bhat in 1998. Schaefer first picked up a racquet at age 10. After making it to the national college championships as a student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, she continued playing tournaments throughout the country and the world until about 10 years ago. At 49, Schaefer entered the senior circuit, making the U.S. World Cup team three times and traveling to Austria, Turkey and Germany. Two of her three World Cup appearances resulted in championships for the U.S. team.
Even after more than 50 years, Schaefer still enjoys the sport. “It’s like playing chess. I love the thought process, the strategy,” she said.
Decades after discovering her love for the tennis, Schaefer discovered another passion in paddle tennis. Played outdoors on a smaller, enclosed court, the winter sport can be even tougher on the body than regular tennis, Schaefer said.