“The game’s a-foot”, according to Will Shakespeare, and although he would have known almost nothing about the game of tennis, the phrase aptly describes the birth and growth of the East Valley Senior Tennis League. Let’s be a mouse in the corner some thirty years ago, March 14, 1980, to be exact, and listen.
Nine eager representatives of five valley tennis clubs have gathered to organize the EVSTL. Excitement is high! Conversations swirl around the room as ideas are tossed back and forth, points are scored, winning shots are noted – this is the start of what could be a long-term and far-reaching involvement for interested tennis players of all levels as they live out their retirement years in sunny Arizona.
Representatives of charter tennis clubs - Apache Wells, Sun Lakes, Sunland Village, Tower Point, and Venture Out - elect their first officers: President Connie Conrad from Sun Lakes, Vice-President Bill Christie from Venture Out, and Secretary/Treasurer Al DuBois from Apache Wells prepare to lead the various players into the future. And so…. Let the games begin!
Set 1 – The First Decade – the 80s
As in any initial endeavor, working out rules of ‘play’ is primary. During its two to three meetings each season, the basic strategy is set:
· Each match team minimum requirement shall be three men’s teams, two ladies’ teams, one mixed team
· Each match shall be two sets; third set shall be 12 point tie-break
· Dues shall be $10 per park per season
· Standardized score sheets and match logs are developed
· Roster equity determined and encouraged
As in any match, ‘rallies’ are prevalent around:
· Shall there be refreshments? Yes? No? Optional? Yes!
· May players play up? Down? Up!
· “A” and “B”? “A” or “B”? (the latter)
· Minimum age 40? 45? 45! (1988)
· Scorekeepers – Yes? No? Optional? Yes!
· Shall there be an all-park “A+” team? Yes!
· Shall there be a “C” team? Optional!
By the end of the decade, great ‘scores’ have been made:
· Nomination Committee appointed each season
· Elections conducted at spring meeting
· New balls provided for each match
· Constitution and Bylaws hammered out, revised, determined
As in any event, there are challenges, sometimes leading to disagreements and disappointments. Sun Lakes officially pulls out of league; Venture Out is voted out of league due to lack of courts. By the end of 1990 season, EVSTL consists of eleven clubs: Apache Wells, Carriage Manor, Greenfield Village, Mesa Regal, Monte Vista, Road Haven, Sunland Village, Sunland Village East, Tower Point, Valle del Oro, and View Point. And the league enters the second decade on a winning roll.
Set 2 – The Second Decade – the 90s
We’ve got our game together, we know all the players, we’ve identified our strengths, our weaknesses, our areas for improvement.
How does the league realize consistency in rating players? Much discussion around following the NTRP rating system vs. allowing players and/or clubs to rate players. By mid decade, the former option fails, and league determines individual clubs will rate own players.
Match schedule to include 2.0s, playing on Tuesday; 2.5s, playing on Friday; and 3.0s, playing on Wednesday.
Shall the league create a 3.0+ rank? What day established for their match play? Ultimately, league asks 3.5s to form own league and schedule, leading to dissension – Monte Vista pulls out of EVSTL but rejoins year later.
Venture Out voted in to full membership with completion of four courts.
Later in decade, eleven 3.5 teams are integrated into EVSTL, to share Wednesday for match play
League asks clubs to set up system of training scorekeepers
Scheduling moves into computer age! Season to run from early November through mid-March
Moves to organize 4.0s! 1.5s!
Tournaments and invitationals on annual basis provide opportunities for players to expand competitive skills
Much concern over all clubs providing a full complement of players at matches, leading to proposals to divide league into two parts – larger teams, smaller teams – or split the season into two parts.
Perusal of various editions of Bylaws is evidence of the many hours of thoughtful discussion required to build a viable ‘team’, and EVSTL completes its second decade in great position. And with the addition of Leisure World, The Resort, and Silver Ridge, the league boasts 15 clubs!
Set 3 – The Third Decade – moving into the new century - the 2000s
Are there three sets in EVSTL tennis? Well, there are in this story!
The clubs and their respective teams begin to fine-tune their play – as 3.0, 3.5, and 4+ rankings experiment with use of 18 point match tie-break. Guidelines for Rating Committees, Guidelines for Team Captains, and Rules of Fair Play are introduced and accepted.
The Conan Tiebreak process is instituted in 2005; by 2010, in place at all levels! By late 2009, age minimum to compete is set at 50! Everything costs more – dues raised to $15! Then to $20! What a deal!
Hey, this computer business is great! A web-site and web-master provide a public face of EVSTL and introduce the league and club officers to all interested parties, and e-mail messaging becomes the order of the day. All match scheduling is being accomplished via computer.
Much discussion revolves around incorporating Super Senior play for 65 and over, eventually formation of an independent league for those 75 and over.
As can be expected, some ‘rallies’ still occur:
Concern over ratings at club level
Moving players up or down – what percentage? How handle instances in which suggested moves are not fulfilled?
Should the league design a logo?
Time for matches to start each day; playing days for 3.5 and 4.0+ matches
Recommendations on substitution for injured player during match
Apache Wells and Val Vista resorts discuss merger, resulting club becomes full member in 2009 – further history follows.
Sunland Springs Village joins the league bringing the total membership to 16 clubs, over 150 teams, and nearly 3000 tennis players! What’s the score? Everyone wins!
The Future – The Fourth Decade – the 20-teens
In the parlance of this story, it’s Tournament Time! Great strides are being made; clubs are raising funds and expanding court space to accommodate the influx of Baby Boomers retiring to our sunny clime; competition and marketing become evident as parks and individual tennis clubs promote our activity through web sites, entertainment events, newsletters, and glossy brochures.
Regulations are fine-tuned:
by 2011, for stat purposes, players must play three out of six matches after January 1 (when clubs are at full strength)
move-down percentage required? (stay at 40%)
two #1 teams permitted at all levels
two match schedules (fall/winter) for 2012-2013; back to one schedule in 2013-2014
discussion of sharing players among clubs
As in any endeavor, time moves on, personnel ‘move up’, and EVSTL regretfully says goodbye to Nancy Nicola, long-time scheduler, and Hal Cohen, 1.5 coordinator, as they retire from their duties, leaving very large shoes to fill.
Desire to stay fit and healthy creates pressure for more opportunities for exercise, more racket sport facilities. The clarion call is heard and EVSTL responds! Clubs are continuing to provide a full complement of teams, a competitive environment, and enjoyable retirement facilities for all players.
Promotion of recreational tennis is the hallmark of the league. The future looks bright as the EVSTL continues to grow in prestige and leadership.
A significant milestone in EVSTL history occurred in the mid-third decade as two existing clubs found new life and a new entity. But first, a bit of history…
Back in 1998, on a gravel lot used for storing RVs, four tennis courts were built at Val Vista Village. For several years, the courts received very limited use; in fact, many days no players showed up to play. Subsequently, there was talk of demolishing the courts.
Fortunately, a few residents began a recruitment campaign, and slowly but slowly more and more residents began showing up to play.
Word spread, much interest was generated!
Weekly Round Robin events were lots of fun!
Coffee, donuts, and prizes for the top doubles couple!
The tennis club brought in a coach from British Columbia to coach the ladies and a member of the Arizona State University to coach the men. And, they were on their way!
Cal-Am, owner of Val Vista Village Resort, organized a tennis tournament in March, 2003. More courts were necessary, and Mesa Regal, another Cal-Am property, offered its facilities. What a success! This tournament continued for years – interest increased for more competitive play. Thus began talks of joining the EVSTL.
But, Val Vista needed more players and more facilities. Enter Apache Wells, also a Cal-Am property and an existing member of the league, which was on the verge of losing its membership in EVSTL due to decreasing members. Sounded like a good pairing, and by a vote of 14 to 1, Val Vista Village tennis club members voted to join Apache Wells.
League play as Apache Wells/Val Vista Village began in November, 2007. All home matches were played at Apache Wells until March, 2009, when home matches were switched to Val Vista Village.
League play continued on the hard-surface courts at Val Vista Village until January, 2013, when construction of synthetic-grass courts and the Racquet Club complex housing tennis and pickleball was completed. League play was inaugurated on January 8 – and the rest is future!
A GRAND OLD MAN
He’s an old-timer in the league; but to listen to him, to hear his stories, you would never know it. Let’s back up a bit…
Henry and Lucille were not tennis players, they were square dancers. What a pair they were on the dance floor. It seemed they could dance forever. And then someone suggested they were so agile, they moved so well, why don’t they take up tennis? Well now, this was a major move, and dramatic change in life-style. But why not – let’s try it.
At this time, EVSTL provided A and B rankings; Henry petitioned the league for a C class – got it. Now he needed a court – Mesa Regal gave the group one court per week. Soon, other resorts picked up on the idea, and they were off – no medals, no trophies – just good fun.
Eventually, Mesa Regal could field three 2.0 teams. The club hired a professional rater – moderately successful, he says – the club chose self-rating. Henry moved to 2.5; then to 3.0. Lots of play at Gene Autry.
But, we all can understand the next few years – bad back slowed him down. He voluntarily moved to 2.5, then 2.0. “I was just happy to play!”, he says. “Just happy to play.” In February, 2011, as the oldest, Henry played in the Battle of the Legends Tournament – four sets – to a draw!
Henry fondly remembers so many of those early players: Carol and John Rogers, Don Voss, Betty and Dwight Miller, Bonnie and Bill Oakerland. In those early days, everyone chipped in – put up mesh fences – built benches. And he laughs at those times – one manager knew nothing about tennis, according to Henry, and painted the courts with green enamel!
Mesa Regal, a Cal-Am property, has six tennis courts, pickleball club and courts, volleyball courts, a softball cage. The club sponsors a 1.5 Winter Breakout Tournament; proudly competes inter-league and inter-Cal-Am.
Elsewhere the reader will find pictures Henry offered for this series – check them out!
OUR TIRELESS AND DEDICATED SCHEDULER
Almost twenty years ago, during Don Kovan’s administration, the call went out for a scheduler, someone who could utilize a computer program to make sense of the weekly matches among the sixteen clubs. Enter Nancy Nicola, Viewpoint Resort – “I can do that – sign me up!” And the rest is history.
From 1995 until season of 2011, Nancy was the ‘go-to’ person; she kept the league matches efficiently and fairly scheduled – clubs A through V, red, blue, and white, 1.5 through 4.0, November through early March – no easy task. Recall how eagerly players hung around the club bulletin board awaiting the season schedule; recall how smoothly competition ensued. The league appreciates her dedication and tireless efforts.
Nancy arrived in Viewpoint Resort in the early ‘90s, playing competitive tennis at the 2.5 level, swiftly excelling and moving up the ranks. This writer remembers her insight at various executive committee and general meetings. This was serious business and she eagerly joined her co-workers in planning the present and future of the league, particularly the addition of 3.5 and 4.0 levels of competition.
As with many of us, Nancy sits on the side-lines now, hips, knees, shoulders reflecting the many hours of swinging that racket, smashing that ball, pounding her feet on the court. A recent widow, she grows in her independence, copes with the ‘retired’ lifestyle summering in Wintersville, Ohio, and awaits late October to return to Arizona.
Maybe down the road, there is another project awaiting a keen mind to initiate, an indomitable spirit to complete. That would be Nancy.
PICTURES FROM HENRY DIETRICH, MESA REGAL
In March of 2003, Mesa Regal organized a tennis tournament with the different Cal-Am parks. John and Ann McGarry, Deloris and Gerry Nelson, Pete Whittemore, Don Kieran, Bob Scarlett and Bruce Hanwell represented Val Vista. As a team we did vey well and Ann McGarry took home the ladies 2.5 trophy. The next tournament was held January 2006 and was played at Alta Mesa. Pete Whittemore and Don Kieran took second place for the 2.5 teams.
A Brief History of Valle del Oro Tennis Club
Do you remember when $1 would buy – tournament balls?; how about $3 – club dues for a year! And $10 would buy a team shirt or install a club bulletin board – ah, those were the days – early 80s to be exact – but let’s begin at the beginning.
VDO opened its gates for the 1983-1984-snowbird season. Tennis players were few and far between – why? No tennis courts! But word spread, interest was plumbed, and soon players were traveling to local high school courts and newly-opened snowbird resorts. But, we wanted our own courts.
Ray Brannon acted as spokesman for these intrepid players, management acknowledged the need, and by the 1985-1986 winter season two courts were available.
Now – let’s approach the EVSTL for admission. Circumstances favored VDO, a space opened up, and VDO quickly entered a 3.0 team, drew up a constitution, and elected officers. Ray Brannon served as President/Coordinator and Jack Holland as Vice President for 1985 – 1987, and we were off and running.
Team esprit de corps was high – ball machine was purchased, captains’ hats were available, a new bulletin board was installed, volunteers planted greenery and flowers around the courts. Social events, initiated during the next decades, became ‘traditional’ events – Polka Fest, Spaghetti Dinner, monthly Friday socials, Mardi Gras Parade – the VDO tennis club was now truly an active and involved group.
The club participated in and ‘did themselves proud’ in intra-league invitational and tournaments, developed a newsletter, joined the East Valley in forming 1.5 teams (first match January, 2006, set up a website, participated in Senior Olympics, encouraged Saturday morning round robin, participated in worthy fund raisers, and all the while having a great lifestyle.
All this success doesn’t just happen – it takes a willing spirit and muscle - leadership, dedicated players, hard-working volunteers. And in the last several years, honors were bestowed on several long-time club members. Henri Rochette was honored for his years of service as an officer and being instrumental in establishing the VDO web pages – vdotennis.us; Kay and Bruce Randall were awarded the Lifetime Outstanding Achievement Award for their devotion to the club as early pioneers.
Remember the beginnings?? Now it’s 2013, and a can of tennis balls can cost $5! Club dues are now $20! Team t-shirt may even be $25! And look where we are – 250 members, newly refurbished courts, a thriving, involved, active club. Thirty years and heading for thirty more!
This is the beginning of the EVSTL history.
Invitation is sent to all EVSTL members to help to complete with their notes and pictures.