By David Novich, USTA.com
TUCSON , Ariz. – From New York City to Washington State, tennis teams across America go to great lengths to play the sport they love with the dream of competing for the USTA League National Championships. Here are two such stories of teams that made it to Tucson despite the adversity they faced each week due to a lack of regular court time.
Pacific Northwest men
Every week, the Pacific Northwest men’s tennis team used to practice with a pro at the Bally’s Total Fitness Club in Puyallup, Washington.
But in January of 2009, a month before the indoor league season was set to begin, they discovered their club was closing. The fitness chain, like many companies during the recession, was filing for bankruptcy.
Team Captain Curt Lauderman called every club within 40 miles of their city to find court time. They ended up finding a Bally’s Total Fitness Club in Olympia, Wash, as well as local high schools where they could play.
Nine months later, a season that almost didn’t happen finds the men competing at the 2009 USTA League 3.5 Adult National Championships at the Reffkin Tennis Center in Tucson, Ariz.
“It made our team stronger,” said Lauderman. “We had no practice facility, no pro. We just had each other.”
And with a team they really believed in, they made it a point to practice twice as much as they had the year before. They made up for the lack of a pro, by playing each other.
The hard work and dedication paid off with a record of 14-1, first place at the regional championships in Olympia and the sectional championships in Portland, Ore., and now a trip to Tucson to compete against the nation’s best 3.5 men.
For the Eastern women, it was not the loss of a practice facility that made them nomads, but more the challenge of finding regular court time in the crowded New York City area.
They practiced at Queens College, Frederick Johnson Park in Harlem and at courts all over Long Island. And with court time expensive, they never shied away from a good bargain no matter how far the trip.
“When we got a deal,” said Team Co-Captain Ayako Minatodani, “We’re like ok, we’re doing it.”
Although the ladies racked up plenty of frequent flyer miles for their trip to Tucson, it’s nothing compared to the miles they trekked around New York to find matches.