COLUMBIA — Kathie Lutz came to Columbia from Virginia and was disappointed to find her options limited when it came to playing her sport of choice. She decided to change that.
Lutz started playing tennis when she enrolled her son in kindergarten in 1996 and has played ever since. Soon after moving to Columbia four years ago, she started a USTA-sanctioned women’s tennis league. Now three teams — the Backspin Babes, Volley Girls and Net Force — play a round-robin schedule of USTA-rated league matches every Tuesday at Cosmopolitan Park.
Lutz is the captain of the Net Force team. The other women in the league play for different reasons and come from different backgrounds. Some participants said they are looking for competition, and others are looking for entertainment.
“This league provides an opportunity to socialize and meet new people to play,” said Robin Roberts, captain of the Backspin Babes.
Like many of her teammates and opponents, Roberts first learned tennis in high school and has continued playing. Fellow Backspin Babe Linda Robertson also began playing tennis in high school. When she was younger, she played doubles with her sister in their hometown of Poplar Bluff.
“Tennis is like golf,” Robertson said. “It’s a lifetime sport. In the ’70s, everyone played tennis. It was all the rage.”
For Robertson, the league provides a chance to rage on in a fun, healthy way.
Lutz said she enjoys the role of participant instead of supporter.
“When the weather is nice, my kids will come out to cheer me on. It’s really fun, because I am a mom being watched by my family instead of the other way around.”
The weather has double faulted in the last few weeks. Wind, rain and cool weather have made playing tough, but these women played on and will continue to play into the summer months.
The league schedule runs from April through June, with the league champion having the opportunity to play in state, regional and national competitions.
Each team in the league has between 12 and 13 women who play singles and doubles and are individually rated based on their skill. The USTA has a rating system that the league uses to try to keep the playing field level. This league has a 3.5 rating, which means the players have dependable, accurate strokes and are developing their depth and variety on shots.