3.0 Senior player Mary Heins is young at heart at the 2012 National Championships.
3.0 Senior player Bruce Cotten shares life experiences at the 2012 National Championships.
By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – They have lived through important historic events that have changed the world and have seen the evolution of today’s technology, but these days, 81-year-old Bruce Cotten and 82-year-old Mary Heins spend much of their time playing tennis.
Cotten and Heins are playing for their respective teams at this weekend’s 2012 USTA League Tennis 3.0 Senior National Championships at the Mission Hills Country Club.
Heins is a member of the Southwest Section 3.0 Senior women’s team which is based at the El Paso Tennis Club in El Paso, Texas. Cotten is captain of the Florida Section 3.0 Senior men’s team, which makes its home at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach, Fla.
A retired stockbroker, Cotten served during the Cold War with the Combat Engineers in West Germany from 1954 to 1955 as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army. He lived in Miami for 45 years before moving to his current home in Daytona Beach in 2004.
"I like Daytona a lot better than Miami. You can play (tennis) all year," Cotten said. "It’s a great place to live and the beach is great. That’s really what’s keeping me going."
When he was a stockbroker, many of Cotten’s clients played tennis and today most of his friends play the game. He encourages players to play in USTA Leagues. "Just get involved with a league. The league is fun and you meet some nice people," he said.
Cotten, who observes a sugar-free diet, takes great pride in staying active and in shape. After reading a poster in a gym, he adopted the motto, "Getting Old is Not for Sissies."
As he offered advice to others, Cotten said, "Watch what you eat and exercise. Keep a positive attitude and stay active."
When it comes to talking about the past, Cotten, with a sharp memory, remembers exactly where he was during historic events during his lifetime such as the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the Apollo lunar landing.
He clearly remembers one of his childhood friends selling "Extras" (newspapers) the day Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Mary Heins – The Team Player
It was back in the early 1960s when Heins became involved in tennis when her four children began playing. "I was attracted to tennis and I wanted the children to play tennis," she said.
Later in her life, Heins began playing USTA Leagues because she enjoyed the team aspect of the sport. "You just meet such wonderful people," she said. "I enjoy being part of a team. I’m a team player."
Heins is a player for the ages as she is competing in her third USTA League National Championships this weekend after playing in the Nationals in 1990 and 2006.
"It’s fantastic and a dream come true. It’s as good as it gets," Heins said as she spoke about her experiences playing at the USTA League Nationals. "It’s been very exciting."
Just like Cotten, Heins, who grew up in Mississippi, recollected many events during her lifetime that impacted today’s world.
"I grew up in the South and I think Desegregation is the thing I treasure the most. It was the best thing to see," she remembered. "World War II was the worst thing to see. My two older brothers were in the service. That’s when I learned what war was about. We’ve seen a lot of history, good and bad."
Heins, an El Paso, Texas resident who retired from public school teaching in 1985, has also seen drastic changes in the Electronic Age during her life.
While discussing today’s rapidly-changing technology, Heins said she has kept up somewhat, but she did have her dislikes.
"I’m a person that likes to communicate personally and when I seeing everyone texting and talking on cellphones and not really communicating, it bothers me a lot," she said.
During a break in between matches this weekend, Heins said she was impressed when she dined at a local restaurant that posted a sign saying, "No Cellphones."
While Cotten and Heins may be the oldest Seniors at this weekend’s USTA National Championships at the Mission Hills Country Club, they are both young at heart.