If you ask people why they play tennis, the majority will answer with one of—or a combination of—three things: competition, exercise, and fun. Of course, if you’re looking for a way to combine all three of those elements and add a chance to compete for a national title, there’s only one answer—USTA League. And right now is the perfect time to register for a USTA League team in your area, so that you can start enjoying the competition and camaraderie that have become synonymous with the USTA’s most popular program.
USTA League began in 1980, with the goal of organizing and promoting more opportunities to play for adults of all ages. In its inaugural season, USTA League attracted 13,000 participants and, from there, began a steady growth that has made it what it is today—the world’s largest recreational tennis league. In 2010, USTA League attracted a record 738,000 participants, a number that is up more than 75,000 in just the last three years, establishing USTA League as one of the driving forces in tennis’s recent record growth.
“USTA League is a true tennis success story,” says David Schobel, the USTA’s Director of Competitive Play. “It has grown from humble beginnings to the largest and most successful recreational tennis league in the world, offering its participants a fun environment in which to compete and providing opportunities for millions of Americans to stick with tennis for a lifetime.”
USTA League is structured, competitive team play for men and women age 18 and older, all organized by NTRP rating. That means that regardless of your level of play, there’s a league and a team that’s just right for you. Teams compete in four national divisions—Adult (18-and over), Senior (50-and-over), Super Senior (60-and-over) and Mixed Doubles. The format features singles and doubles matches for adult leagues, and three doubles matches for seniors, super seniors and mixed leagues. Section champion teams in these categories then have the opportunity to compete for a national title. The 2011 USTA League National Championships will be held this fall in Indian Wells, Calif., Rancho Mirage, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz.
One of the best things about USTA League tennis is the way in which it is constantly innovating, adapting and instituting new formats so that everyone, everywhere, has a chance to play. Among those innovative formats are Tri-Level, Mixed Senior (age 50 and over) and Combo Doubles, where the combined NTRP ratings of the doubles team determine participation. There also are Flex Leagues, which offer all of the fun and competition of league play for those on a tighter schedule. The Flex League format groups players of similar ability together in an organized seven to ten week league that allows participants to schedule matches on their own terms, allowing players to compete at a time and a date that’s mutually convenient.
But maybe the very best thing about USTA League is the fun that is shared by all who participate. Indeed, USTA League—and those who play in it—represents the very best of tennis. USTA League play combines healthful and fun exercise for all ages, it’s a great way to make friends, and it provides opportunities to network professionally and socially. For more than 30 years now, the story of league play has been a story of unparalleled competition and camaraderie; of forging friendships and making memories.
Naturally, nearly everyone who plays USTA League tennis dreams of making it to the Nationals, but whether or not they do, they enjoy the competition and they have a great time. Just ask 62-year-old Bill Debaun of Leawood, Kan., whose USTA Missouri Valley team last year reached the 4.5 Men’s Nationals in Indian Wells.
Debaun, who has had a hip replacement, five knee operations and hand and rotator cuff surgery through the years, has allowed none of that to sideline him from USTA League competition. “It’s just a big part of my life,” he says. “It’s a great social sport in which to meet people. The most fun I have is playing league tennis—nothing could stop me from playing.”
If you’re interested in getting in on the fun—the USTA has a league for you. Sign up today and get involved with something you can enjoy for the rest of your life. To join a team or league in your area, go to USTA.com and click on USTA League.