Exercising, socializing and having a good time. These are the goal of the women’s team tennis program in Mt. Lebanon, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this past spring. The program has changed a lot over its lifetime and the new chair is trying to switch it up a little.
Orchard Drive resident Elizabeth Tragesser, chair of the league since 2014, has taken it upon herself to increase membership and diversify the league, allowing women from surrounding communities to join the formerly Mt. Lebanon-only group. When Tragesser took over the position, the program had 32 members. Now, 60 women play every Monday morning at the Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center for six weeks in the spring, from mid-April until early June. This time schedule works for the majority of players—mothers who want to finish playing before their kids are let out of school for the summer.
“It started as a group of Lebo women who didn’t want to travel around to play,” Tragesser says, adding that when the program was founded it was exclusive to Mt. Lebanon. “They wanted to play competitively but stay home. I hear it was very hard to get in.” In fact, when Tragesser tried to join the league a few years ago, she was initially denied because there were too many women.
Tragesser recruits women for the program through mutual friends, email and word of mouth. Many have been playing tennis their whole lives, but some, like Tragesser only started playing in adulthood, when she started taking her sons, Stephen and Matthew, now 18 and 20, to tennis lessons. “I never knew how to play,” Tragesser says. “If I can do it, anybody can.”
All women in the league have experience playing tennis, whether they are taking lessons at the Tennis Center or have been playing for many years, and know the USTA rules. “You can only take lessons for so long,” says Julie Vuillemot, Lebanon Hills Drive, who joined the league last year so she could start playing real matches. Playing doubles style tennis, each player is matched with a partner for the season, and each pair plays one match every Monday. Having women alternate on and off the court allows for competition and socializing. “It is more social than competitive,” Vuillemot said at the league’s 40th anniversary tournament while cheering on a friend on the court.
Including women from such neighboring towns as Upper St. Clair, Bridgeville, Bethel Park and Peters Township also is a benefit. “I try to include different neighborhoods. Different people bring more skills,” Tragesser says. “If you play the same people, you don’t improve your game. And, it is more fun.”
At their 40th anniversary tournament this past June, a USTA representative came to give some players USTA ratings. Participants had cake, a food spread, trophies for winners and plenty of chatting. “It is very social; it gives you the time to exercise, a couple of hours of being with adults and having a good time,” Tragesser says. “I have met so many of my good friends through the league.”
If you are interested in joining the program, contact Tragesser at email@example.com. The fee is $80 and covers court fees, tennis balls, a T-shirt and the end of the season tournament.