Cram, Wilkinson Enjoy Life as USTA League Captains
March is Women’s History Month and USTA Iowa is featuring two women’s tennis captains who have made an impact on tennis in Iowa.
Ellen Cram - Iowa City
Ellen Cram is evidence that it’s never too late to pick up the game of tennis. She got hooked when she was 40-years old while her son and husband were playing and she decided to join in. She has continued playing for the past 20 years. Her favorite part is the camaraderie and the competition. Captaining teams is just icing on the cake.
“Try your best to find a group of like-minded players who will support effort (not just wins), are invested in developing their skills and committed to contributing to the team,” she advised. “It is so much easier to be a captain if the other players have the same goals and if they like one another.”
She enjoys the planning and the organizing that comes along with being a captain, even though at times it can be challenging.
“I am a natural planner/organizer, I like managing the logistics,” she said. “Particularly in a state with a smaller population and more rural areas, it can be challenging to find players to fill out rosters. As we get older, finding women who want to play singles can be tough.”
Recognizing that everyone has different personalities, sometimes the simplest decisions can save a lot of stress.
“One of the best decisions we made was to let go of trying to find a single outfit that all players could agree upon,” she recalled.
As far as her future goals, she would like to continue to improve her game, enjoy the competition and qualify again for Nationals.
Sherry Wilkinson - Urbandale
Sherry Wilkinson is not a morning person, unless it involves tennis.
“It’s one of the few things I’ll get up early to do,” she said. “My teammates and I even got up at 5 a.m. at sectionals to practice. Other than tennis, I’d only do that for an emergency.”
Urbandale resident Sherry Wilkinson has been playing tennis for most of her life. She enjoys all aspects of it, including captaining USTA league teams. She is currently the captain of four teams. The benefits definitely outweigh the challenges, she said, but it’s not always an easy role.
“Sometimes there is a struggle to get enough people to fill all of the courts for a match; not everyone responds to emails or texts,” she explained. “Then I have to go to the last resort - the telephone. I’ve had people email a couple of hours before a match and say they can’t play. Then there’s the person who walks in two minutes before a match, that’s stressful.”
She rolls with the punches, and gives advice to others who are thinking about being a captain, be patient - and be good with different personalities.
“Are you organized? Do you like to strategize? Can you handle a loss as well as a win? Will you have time to attend matches as well as make out lineups? Are you patient? Captains have to be responsible and show good sportsmanship, and expect that of their players.”
Wilkinson realized how much she missed tennis when facilities were closed at the beginning of the pandemic. As for her future goals, she hopes to continue improving her skills, competing in the postseason and meeting new people.
“It’s been so much fun getting to know various people from all walks of life and from areas other than just Des Moines,” she added. “I’ve gotten to know men and women from Iowa, as well as places I go to vacation.”
If you’re interested in becoming a captain, contact Adult League Coordinator, Jan Koder at firstname.lastname@example.org.