Social League Sees Largest Expansion in Seventh Year
WESTBOROUGH, MA - Seven years ago, USTA New England staff member Sarah Wishart created the New England Social Tennis League for young professionals as an experiment to play tennis and socialize with friends in a low-pressure environment. The concept was simple: Sign up as an individual or with friends, get placed on a team, play tennis, and then head to a bar to socialize and network.
“I feel we were really just filling a need. There were so many other co-ed sports out there from kickball and soccer to softball, but tennis just didn’t seem to have anything like that in Boston. I wanted to create a league that I myself would want to play in, and as soon as the first season filled, I knew we were onto something” Wishart said.
The league began at the Lawrence School in Brookline, MA and featured 87 players across two nights. Over the next couple years, as word spread throughout the Boston area, the league gained momentum and demand grew. Nearby sites popped up in Medford, Malden, Southie and Framingham, and soon enough, the Social League was becoming a household name.
Fast forward to today, and while the original concept still holds true, the league boasts more than 1,400 players in three states and has introduced site coordinators to oversee recreational, intermediate and advanced leagues.
In 2021, the Social League ran a record 44 sites throughout the spring, summer and fall seasons in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine. Twenty sites were hosted in the summer alone, the most of any season yet, and it’s evident the interest is still as high as ever.
“We have such a dedicated group of players, and the growth of this league has been amazing. Some of our leagues have sold out in minutes, we have waitlists for most, and I receive interest emails daily,” Wishart said.
The New England Social Tennis League is one of the most popular and fastest growing leagues of its kind nationwide. The newest sites outside Greater Boston are in Worcester & Chicopee, MA, Portland, ME and Bristol & New Haven, CT.
The Worcester site began in 2021 thanks to the collaboration between Wishart and eventual site coordinator, Carlos Melgar-Petrain. Melgar-Petrain, who moved to New England from Kentucky six years ago, was seeking a similar tennis experience to the one he had in Kentucky.
“I wanted something that I could leave my 9-5 job and go straight to and get my exercise while making friendships,” he said. “Worcester was the right place to have the league, as it is an up-and-coming city with all the colleges here.”
In the spring, the Worcester site started with just six players. But come summer and fall, the site grew to 18 players per season, much to Melgar-Petrain’s excitement.
In addition to just growth in numbers, the site expanded from just tennis to the formation of a mini community. Featuring players of all ages and abilities, competition was always present, but support and admiration for one another began to jump to the forefront.
“To me, this league is about the players. We show up early and stay late to watch the other matches, and we give and take advice, but most of all, we create friendships between all players regardless of ability level. That’s what this league is about.”
New Haven was Connecticut’s first social league site beginning in 2018. While experiencing a steady core of regulars through 2020, 2021 saw an influx like never before. The summer season featured four teams and 24 players, while the fall season sold out with 36 players.
Recent UConn graduate and Tennis On Campus Captain, Adrian Cruz, signed on as site coordinator for the summer session.
“For me, this was the perfect transition after playing club tennis in college,” Cruz said. “There’s always a bit of uncertainty when joining a new league, but this was simple to join, and we had tons of young professionals come out to see what it was all about. We’ve all gotten really close – we hang out, we’ve had holiday parties, and we’ve created lifelong friendships.”
“While we’ve expanded quickly, I just keep thinking how much potential this league truly has. It's inspiring the influence we’ve had on so many, and I'm excited to see where we take the league over the next few years,” Wishart said.
To learn more about our social league, click here.