40 Years Later
A Tennis Reunion
A Tennis Reunion
A Tennis Reunion
The 1977 Spring Grove High School Tennis Team was loaded with talent from top to bottom. Forty years later, the team experienced a unique reunion.
Five of the team’s top players reunited at USTA League National Championships last fall, with three players competing for USTA Middle States, and two for USTA Southern.
The group’s long-time love for tennis didn’t happen by chance.
The men’s tennis coach at central Pennsylvania’s Spring Grove in the 1970s, Gary Gault, was also the junior high basketball coach at the time. He recruited some of the basketball team’s best athletes to his summer tennis clinics.
One of those players was Ken Grove, a senior in 1977.
“I would not be playing tennis now if Gary wasn’t my junior high basketball coach,” Grove said. “I credit our success and this lifetime of tennis to Coach Gault.”
Grove was recruited early in his high school career to try tennis, and by the time the 1977 tennis season rolled around, Coach Gault had managed to assemble a formidable squad with a number of other athletes.
Craig Diehl (1978) and Grove (1977) played the No.
2 and No. 3 spots behind Mark Shaeffer (1977). Jenks Landis (1978) and Glenn Sheaffer (1981) rounded out the top five.
The team went on to win the school’s first ever District 3 tennis title in 1977, adding league titles every year through 1981.
“Beating the normal powerhouse teams was satisfying to us because we were considered farmers by the other teams,” Grove said.
As the years have gone by, the top 5 players on the 1977 team continued to play tennis at a high level through USTA League Tennis and Adult Tournaments.
This year, Jenks Landis, Craig Diehl, and Ken Grove joined forces for the first time since high school, competing on a 55 and Over 9.0 team.
They picked up right where they left off.
Their 9.0 55 team from Central Pennsylvania breezed through the season en route to a berth at the USTA National Championships.
Once the National Championship draw was set, it didn’t take long for the group to realize that they would be facing off against one another.
“We all knew ahead of time that the Sheaffer brothers would be at Nationals for the Southern section and Ken, Jenks, and I would be there for Middle States,” Diehl said. “I think we all were looking forward to the challenge.”
The Sheaffer brothers and their USTA Southern team answered the challenge by winning the entire tournament and earning the National Title.
“I felt a slight credit given to the 1977 Rockets high school team for their victory,” Landis joked. “We all pushed each other to continue to get better, which is why we are still good players as seniors today.”
The unique opportunity for the 1977 Spring Grove team to reunite once again on the tennis court decades after they competed in High School together was special, and it allowed Glenn Sheaffer to put the importance of the sport in perspective.
“It wasn’t all about tennis that made us love the game so much, it was the friendships that the game helped develop,” he said. “Tennis has shaped our lives with such great enthusiasm. The true connection to the game are the friendships that last forever.”
To learn more about USTA Middle States Adult Leagues, click here.