When I picked up a racquet for the first time in 16 years and joined a gay tennis league, I set my expectations low. Basically, I wanted to see if I could remember how to hit the ball -- I was a fairly good player in my youth, but a decade and a half is a long time. I figured I'd hit the court occasionally, if I had the time.
A little over six years later I find myself playing more than once a week, I've traveled around the country to play tournaments, I've picked up a couple of trophies, and while I'm not in what I would consider great physical shape I shudder to think what shape I would be if I didn't play.
I even have a husband I met on the courts.
So it's fair to say that joining the Capital Tennis Association (CTA) ended up being an unexpectedly life-changing decision.
While tennis can be a solitary and competitive affair -- it generally lacks the team-based camaraderie of sports like softball, basketball, football and soccer -- it can also be a surprisingly social affair. Like most amateur sports, tennis attracts both the hyper-competitive and primarily social players -- what I found I enjoyed about CTA was that it made room for both types of players, and those of us in between.
In large part, that's due to CTA's focus on league play -- weekly doubles and singles events where members come together and play opponents of similar skill levels. This summer the group will host league play seven days a week in both D.C. and Virginia -- registration starts on Thursday, April 17. Naturally, you have to be a member of CTA to register for a league, a worthwhile investment of $45 for an annual membership.
CTA also organizes a singles ladder through the summer, where players try to climb the rankings by defeating players above them, while protecting their own position from the players below.
While the local options for play are generally what local players are most interested in, it's the tournaments that I enjoy most. CTA hosts two ''in-house'' tournaments during the summer -- singles and doubles competitions that are open only to CTA members.
The big deal, though, is Sept. 13-15 when the annual Capital Classic once again hits the courts, drawing in players from all over the country to compete at all skill levels -- from the super-skilled Open players to the just starting D players. The first day of the tournament is like a big gay tennis fair -- fun and social, while fiercely competitive. When you're not playing, you're cheering your friends and watching some amazing competitors.
Even though I've never won my division -- though I've come achingly close in doubles -- I wouldn't want to miss a chance to compete in it again. That's the funny thing about tennis, and sports in general.
It's not just about the winning.
For more information about the Capital Tennis Association membership, leagues and tournaments, visit www.capital-tennis.org.