WASILLA – Competitive tennis in Alaska may not be just an Anchorage sport for long.
The Mat-Su Tennis Association just finished its second summer season of teen instruction and adult league tennis, and a few of the board members are gearing up for the Colony High School fall club season. Though in their infant stages, secretary and associate instructor Jane Bulovsky said, both the association and the club are seeing many tennis players “come out of the woodwork.”
According to an article on phitamerica.org, tennis had the 10th largest growth of sports in America from 2012 to 2013 for the average person. That means more people are choosing to pick up tennis to get in shape or participate in some healthy competition on an individual basis. Although Miguel Morales of forbes.com wrote that professional tennis was on the decline last fall — and others have agreed — kids seem to be growing the sport for fun by getting in the swing of things on a local level.
But even more than creating interest in the sport in particular, perhaps, the association wants to help kids and adults alike stay active by doing something they enjoy.
“The long-term goals of the association are to promote interest in tennis as a life-long activity,” it reads on the Mat-Su association’s website. “We hope to promote instructional camps, teams and tournament level play at quickstart, juniors and adult levels throughout the Mat-Su Valley.”
Two summers ago, current board members Susan Brunner, Bulovsky, Traci Sanders and Sue Skvorc were just playing tennis for fun as co-workers from Colony High when they had the idea to start the association. One morning Brunner announced that she had created a Facebook page and an email account for Mat-Su Tennis and was ready to move full speed ahead with the association.
Bulovsky, Sanders and Skvorc weren’t about to let her do it alone, of course.
“It came together very quickly once we all decided we were going to do it,” Brunner said. “We were out in the community talking to people at church or at school and wherever we could and it was practically magnetic. We would tell people we started the association and they would say things like ‘wait, you play tennis? I play tennis!’”
Now, the association has 19 official memberships for around 30 people — between families and individuals — and Brunner, Bulovsky, Sanders and Membership Director Christie Wyzykowski are certified instructors with Profession Tennis Registry training.
“Nobody knew there were other people out there,” said vice president Skvorc of the tennis-playing individuals in the Valley prior to the founding of the association. “(The association has) been a good way to get people who had a common interest together and make that community grow.”
Wyzykowski, a parent of Colony students, said she joined the board when she saw an advertisement for the association’s Play Date in the newspaper, and once there asked to be involved.
“It’s a great sport that can be played all year by people of any age and any ability,” she said.
Her sentiment was echoed by all of the other board members.
“No matter what your age and level of experience, you can pretty much always find someone of similar age and experience to play with,” Skvorc said.
Still, the association has experienced some difficulty in getting off the ground. Although considered a non-profit, there was a hitch in the process of obtaining 501(c)3 status as a tax-exempt organization with the IRS getting behind on applications, Bulovsky said, so it wasn’t until recently that they got the forms back saying something was missing. If all goes well from here, board members say, they will have the paperwork in by the end of August and soon be approved.
Part of the reason the association needs the status change is for funding, Bulovsky said. According to Brunner, the United States Tennis Association, with whom the Mat-Su group is affiliated, will match grant funding up to 50 percent, but without being tax-exempt, groups like the Mat-Su Health Foundation are not ready to offer the grants.
On the Meadow Lakes Community Council Facebook page, however, there is word and photographic evidence that the Foundation has provided the funds to break ground for tennis courts at 1210 N. Kim Drive north of Wasilla, which will benefit tennis players around the Valley, Brunner said.
Sanders, the association’s treasurer, said that the sport of tennis has been a big part of her life since she started playing in middle school and continued with Dimond High’s Varsity team, and she knows how important good facilities are for a competitive team.
“Everyone would love to see indoor courts out here but it’s going to take a lot of money.”
In the meantime, Mat-Su tennis will be an outdoor sport, and people will play until the snow flies, members said. The next Play Date, open to the public, is scheduled for Sept. 27.
For more information, visit www.matsutennis.org.
Contact Caitlin Skvorc at 352-2266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.