By Michael Gladysz, special to USTA.com
As Dave Spadaro leaned back on a bench outside the Veterans Park Tennis Center in Hamilton, N.J., following an exhausting battle on the court, a member of the opposing team walked over and introduced himself.
"Great match," the man said to Spadaro, with his hand extended for a shake. "And, hey, I’m a big fan of your work."
Spadaro works for the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles as an online reporter, contributing written pieces, video, radio and more for the Eagles’ official website and also several additional outside publications. For most of his adult life, Spadaro has been breaking down the action in a football-crazed city and giving fans an inside perspective of what’s happening with the team. Having been with the Eagles for every game since 1987, he’s used to being approached by fans who want to talk about the upcoming game, his work or whatever insight he can provide for them.
But when it happens on the courts, some are surprised to hear how his experience in professional football has actually influenced his tennis game.
"You can really draw a lot of similarities," said Spadaro, who last summer finished his third season playing USTA League tennis as a member of the USTA Middle States Section. "The start to each point is really a new play. Whether you win or lose that point, or do well on that particular play, when it ends you have to process everything and move on to the next point."
The 47-year-old, who now plays up to five times per week, hasn’t always been a tennis player, but he’s always maintained a need for some sort of competition. As a fan of many sports and thus open to several options, tennis ended up being the perfect fit.
"It’s the best workout you can ask for," Spadaro said. "The sport has everything from team to individual, and it involves every type of movement. Playing Leagues has been really cool for me as well."
USTA League play has challenged Spadaro to achieve higher goals—one of the things Spadaro "loves about it" is qualifying for Middle States’ Section Championship. During the tournament he was matched up in singles against a player in his early 20s. Spadaro made the adjustment to slow the pace down and pull out some extra strategy for each point.
"Tennis is really a great chess match," he said. "There are so many ways to play and so many strategies you can take in, depending on who you’re playing and what the match feels like. It’s really just been a great sport to learn and a great experience for me."
While gearing up for the NFL season to begin, Spadaro still found time to attend the US Open with his wife to see the highest level of tennis in person. He called the experience "fun, educational and inspirational." Chances are he will take some of what he saw and apply it on the court.
"Tennis has satisfied all of my competitive angst," Spadaro said. "I’m looking forward to keeping up with it. I don’t think that will change for me."