When Your Opponent is Also Your Teammate
In a region that boasts one of the nation’s most populated metropolitan areas and more than 15 million people, the Mid-Atlantic seems vast. But what is so incredible about playing tennis here is how the sport brings people together to create community and connections, almost making the entire region feel like one small town. USTA Mid-Atlantic tennis creates community and brings all people together to connect through the sport. Across the region, adult leagues are one area where the community not only expands but intersects and can lead to some interesting experiences and rewarding outcomes as some players found out this year.
“[We have a] small tennis community,” said Telores Hill, a USTA League captain and player in both the Prince Georges County and Charles County, Md., areas. “Our paths cross all the time.”
In a league environment that is interconnected, players have an opportunity to enjoy a fun and competitive experience made even better because they are with people that they get to know on a deeper level. Many teams become tight-knit units supporting each other beyond the tennis court joining one another in the celebration of life’s milestones, triumphs, and defeats. However, sometimes players find that they may be teammates on one team and opponents on another - an unusual - but fun - the byproduct of creating a vibrant, connected tennis community.
Claris Brock, who is a USTA League co-captain and player for various teams in the Prince Georges and Charles County areas, pointed out that there are advantages to having an overlap in teams. “It gives you the opportunity to compete with players who you already know their skill set. [On the other hand] they know your skillset as well.”
“Most of the people I play with and against are fun. I want to do well, but want them to do well too,” said Tracy Walls, a league player in Prince Georges and Anne Arundel County areas. “It’s like practice time - it’s fun.”
Although switching between being teammates and opponents can be challenging, Walls emphasized, “teams are always positive and encouraging.”
Nowhere was this more apparent than at this year’s Mid-Atlantic Adult 40 & Over Sectional Championship. Chris Lee, Captain of the men’s 4.0 Washington, D.C. team and Don Crawley, Captain of the men’s 4.0 Howard County, Md., team found themselves not only as opponents but as teammates on each other’s team.
“2021 was an aberrational year in many respects, one of which was the lifting of the Section’s 3-player overlap rule. Some captains took full advantage, sharing as many as ten players, which meant that teammates could potentially face each other in the postseason if both teams advanced,” Lee said.
As friends both on and off the court, Lee and Crawley agreed that they would each play for the other. Crawley on Lee’s Washington, D.C. team and Lee on Crawley’s Howard County, Md., team.
“Two captains going against each other playing on the other team is unheard of,” Crawley said.
With a trip to the Nationals Championship on the line, both knew that the Sectional Championship was going to be fun but extremely competitive.
“After battling through the tournament, both of our teams met in the Finals and therefore guaranteed us going to Nationals. There were several players that were not on both teams and we decided to let those guys fight it out for the right to advance,” Crawley said.
“Both Chris and I watched the finals with no pressure knowing that we were heading to Oklahoma City. In the end, D.C. pulled off the win.” Crawley said.
The USTA Mid-Atlantic tennis community is special because every player is there to have fun and connect with one another. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about creating everlasting memories.
USTA League Nationals began October 1, 2021, and will continue each weekend until November 14. To stay up to date on Mid-Atlantic teams competing at League Nationals, make sure to subscribe to USTA Mid-Atlantic’s YouTube Channel and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
USTA Mid-Atlantic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to promoting tennis and its physical, social, and emotional health benefits. Learn about our impact in the Section and how USTA Mid-Atlantic creates community, character, and well-being.