Pride Month: Sets in the City - Dallas
Monica Leary had never held a tennis racquet until her late 20s. When she finally picked one up, she was hooked.
Monica is a member of Sets in the City - Dallas, an LGBTQ Social Tennis Group. The group is geared towards lesbians, but is open to all, including several straight allies and even a few men. Monica got involved with the group through their “Novice Night,” a free drill run on Tuesdays for anyone from beginner level all the way to 5.0.
“It's just like a free-for-all, come as you are,” Monica says of Novice Night. “If you can hit, great, if you can't, even better. I had just gotten out of a serious relationship and someone told me I could meet some girls there and I was like, ‘yeah I'll go.’ There was definitely a learning curve not being very athletic but I mean it worked out great. It was something I didn't know was even missing from my life. I did also meet my goal of meeting a girl via tennis so it was a win-win all around.”
Monica credits Melissa Romig as the one who got her into the sport. Melissa runs the “Novice Night” and has gotten about 85-90% of their members through that event. However, Melissa credits someone else as the one who got Sets in the City - Dallas off the ground.
“We had a national USTA member down here, Marilyn Sherman, and she started a tennis club,” Melissa says. “Just a community tennis club, lesbian focused, and I started hitting with her, that was about seven or eight years ago. We give all credit to her for getting us started on this journey.”
Sets in the City - Dallas is one of several LGBTQ social groups in Texas. Both Melissa and Monica talked about the importance of groups like these for LGBT tennis players.
“It is a way for an otherwise marginalized group to have a healthy athletic interaction,” Melissa says. “It is social, I mean tennis is one of the most social sports you can possibly have and we take full advantage of that. It is a club to the extent that we have some formality to it but it is also a very organic vehicle. It allows us to meet other like-minded people and draw from their strengths.”
“I think for you know the younger single girls, it's more social,” Monica adds. “Then there's people who just want to play tennis and they feel maybe that's a safe space as a lesbian to come to and be able to be around other women that they can more easily relate to. Also, props to [Melissa] and Marilyn, I would say we’re one of the biggest groups in Dallas that is public and open to all and costs nothing to be a member of so we have that added aspect that you're not gonna find anywhere.”
This safe and comfortable space breeds an environment that is welcoming and encourages players to come back. Monica estimates that at least 70% of players have been coming to Sets in the City for several years. For Monica, her reason for coming back has evolved over her time with the group.
“It's definitely changed as I've gotten better,” Monica says. “It was [originally] more social, like hanging out, going out. I would go to tennis to go out after. But now, I think it's really just getting my game better while getting to hang out with people that I love and care for.”
Sets in the City had been on a “long but safe break” since the start of COVID last March. However, the group was able to meet on June 1, the start of Pride Month. A tennis court packed with all their friends is a welcome sight for everyone that’s part of Sets in the City, but truly for Melissa who goes back to her happy place.
“For 90 minutes, I concentrate on nothing but a little yellow ball and that's so liberating.”
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