ANDERSON, Ind. — The 34th annual Community Hospital Anderson Tennis Classic gets underway Saturday morning at Anderson University with competition in the growing middle school age division.
That’s fitting because one of the tournament’s primary goals is to pass the sport on to future generations.
“It’s fantastic,” tournament director John Rhodes said. “That’s really what we’re all about, trying to get the younger generations in.”
Rhodes hopes to expand the growth into elementary school players next year, and he’s already seen the impact the classic can make. The first classes of players from the event’s youngest age groups are beginning to graduate from college.
And they’re returning to play in the tournament as adults and help grow the love of the game in the next generation.
“If we can tap into the younger kids, it’ll make the tournament even stronger for the tri-county area,” Rhodes said.
The youngest players wouldn’t be competing throughout the week. Instead, they’d play with softer balls on a day specially designated for them.
It’s all part of the family-style atmosphere that has helped the tournament continue to thrive even through difficult economic times. This year’s classic features 512 participants.
That number is a slight drop from last year, but the tournament schedule had to be altered because the Indianapolis Colts will be taking over campus for training camp on July 23 this year. The earlier start date caught some families who normally would compete off guard, and they will miss this year’s tournament because of previously scheduled vacations.
But, all things considered, Rhodes is extremely pleased with the turnout.
“We try to get as many players as we can take,” he said. “We try to get the whole family out there together.”
Divisions like mother-daughter and father-son doubles are one way to get the job done. Another is the Century Doubles division, in which the only rule is that the team’s combined age must add up to 100.