By Bill Choy

Triplicate Sports Editor

Most mornings, you can find Dale Watson causing quite a racket on the tennis courts at Del Norte High School, engaged in a match.

President of the Del Norte Tennis Association, Watson, who turned 80 last month, said the sport is a terrific way for him to keep in shape and be active. A mission of his and the association is to let others know of the benefits and enjoyment of playing - for young and old alike.

During his time in the tennis association, Watson said he has enjoyed the people he has met and the friendships that have formed.

andquot;All these people here are friends,andquot; he said. andquot;We just enjoy playing... It's a great way to get exercise. It's a fun activity.andquot;

Watson, a retired health inspector, had andquot;dabbledandquot; in tennis, but really got into it once he retired.

The tennis association is set to start open court days again to encourage community members to come and play tennis.

Starting on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., the tennis association is having open court days, where people interested in playing tennis can come down.

The open tennis days also will take place on Thursdays at 8:30 a.m and Saturdays at 9 a.m.

It doesn't matter how much experience someone has, or ability level, anyone with an interest is encouraged to attend, Watson said.

To him, people who want to get fit and try something different than using the exercise bike in the living room - picking up a tennis racket is a wonderful way to exercise.

Watson is the oldest member of the group, although there are members in their 70s playing. For him, what he loves about tennis is the wide age range of those who play and he said it's nice to play games with different age groups.

Watson enjoys the chance to constantly work on his tennis game.

andquot;With tennis, it's a challenge,andquot; he said. andquot;You can always get better and there's always someone who can teach you something.andquot;

Several years ago, Watson was diagnosed with arthritis. He said since that time, he has went full-out playing sports, such as rugby or whitewater rafting and now tennis.

The arthritis has not slowed him down, he said. In fact, Watson said, he believes playing tennis and keeping fit has helped lessen his arthritis.

Mimi Stephens, a member of the tennis association, said it's nice to have a person as president with a love and passion for the sport and who cares about those he serves.

And, Stephens said, he's always up for a game.

andquot;When you call him to play a game, he says 'yes,' and he's there,andquot; Stephens said. andquot;He's just a good person.andquot;

As another way of staying fit and healthy, Watson normally rides his bike from his home to the tennis court.

He's also a member of the Del Norte Search and Rescue team.

For more information on the Del Norte Tennis Association and open tennis days, call Watson at 465-6302.