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Thu, Nov. 14

Column: There's nothing like a hometown tennis tourney

This past weekend - which for me right now is Saturday night - we've been running the sanctioned PATA Mile High Open Tennis Tournament that has about 74-plus people and 97 entries from Prescott, Phoenix, Las Vegas and other parts of the Southwest, competing in singles, doubles and mixed events. 

Running tournaments is always a journey and a sanctioned tournament is a bit more involved. The players have to be USTA members, pay the entry fees and, while vying for points toward rankings in their perspective age groups, spending a full three days playing tennis. And, if from out of town, they spend quite a bit of change in gas, food and hotel accommodations.

As far as putting together a tournament like this it doesn't happen overnight.  It takes a committee of volunteers who are truly committed to making it all come together with about six months of planning - advertising, sponsors, tournament paperwork and Southwest USTA approvals, bank accounts set up, prizes, T-shirts, food, water, balls, and an order of good weather put in. 

Even after you do all of this, there are no guarantees that the number of participants will allow you to break even; yet, you and your tennis association are willing to take the risk because you believe in what you're doing.  The pluses that come with its likely success and many benefits for the game of tennis outweigh the chance of failure.

As the deadline draws close you hope that players will sign up early, but the last few days and hours bring the most entries. Seems people work on knowing when the last minute to sign up is, and there are some who think deadlines are to be broken.  "Can you still get me in? I forgot when the last day to sign up was."  Sometimes you can and many times you can't. Draws have to be made and times posted, especially for those coming from out of town.

Once the event begins, it's like a "Garden Party" ... a tennis party.

It's fun to catch up with everyone, if you've been playing in these for a while.  Unlike your weekly game, you gear up another notch in preparation - mentally and physically.  Yes, the chips will fall where they fall, but it's a little more of the unknown - players you may have never met before.  In a short hour to 90 minutes you will test yourself against others with skills you've all been working on.  It's fun, it's exhilarating, nerve racking, filled with highs and lows.  You get to see one another under pressure with skills, close calls, small talk, rule and etiquette knowledge and, hopefully, walk away - win or lose - with a certain pride of doing your best.

Before and after the matches you are among others who may have much different backgrounds, but somewhere along the way, gained a love for the competitive game of tennis.

I love the camaraderie, becoming friends, certainly the competition and over the years feelings of an extended family in your tournament get-togethers and encounters.

Here and there you may butt some heads, but it doesn't take long for you to come back to earth knowing this is not a life-or-death situation, just a friendly game of competitive tennis with a couple trophies and your ranking points on the line ... nothing monstrous. 

There's no doubt it's a lot of work for the tournament committee to put together these events, but our tennis trophies and T-shirts say it all: "Tennis friends and memories - today and forever!"

 

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry.  He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@q.com.

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