Love to Love Tennis - Napa Valley Tennis Association
By Kathleen Reynolds
“I’m the ‘Old Guy’ with the Napa Valley Tennis Association (NVTA),” says Bruce Lamoreaux, vice president of the club. “We started in 1967. Now we have 245 members, plus additional lifetime members.”
“When the club started, tennis was booming the U.S. but there weren’t many public courts. Back in the day, I remember playing with Robert Mondavi at the Napa High courts. Now there’s only one public court that isn’t on school grounds, at Los Flores Center. They had a second court, but it was converted into four pickleball courts.”
While the group was organized in 1967, their idea to promote the sport and create public courts wasn’t fully realized until 1976. Most of the funding for the project came from a California Recreational Bond, Napa Community Projects and the NVTA.
“At first, we included the whole valley, but then we concentrated on the Vintage High School courts,” Bruce explained. “Our big fundraiser in 1975 featured Rudy Vallée (a wildly popular singer, actor and bandleader from the 1930s), who was a tennis player. We had a terrific response. Along with money raised from that, the State grant was about $70,000, Community Projects gave us $15,000, the association put in $21,000 and individual donations brought us up to what we needed to put in 11 courts. At the time the estimated cost was $100,000.”
The website states: “The NVTA’s major contribution, however, was the huge effort by the hundreds of members who volunteered time and energy to do everything from installing the fencing to bringing in the plumbing. Today the responsibility of maintaining the facilities and scheduling activities is the sole responsibility of the NVTA. We are continuing to make improvements and we are very proud of our public tennis park.”
“Our goal is to make tennis available for all. It’s good exercise, you’re around people, there’s a lot of laughter and activities,” says Bruce. “Tennis enables you to make quick decisions, be outside and there’s the social part. Older folks, especially, need social interaction. There’s a Copenhagen study that says tennis is the number one sport to add nine years to your life span.”
Sarah Gianelli, age 93, was another longtime member of the association. She agrees with the Copenhagen study conclusion.
“I took to tennis like a fish to water,” says Sarah, who once reigned as Silverado Country Club’s tennis champ for 13 years. “I terribly miss playing. Up until the day I stopped playing, tennis made me full of endorphins. I never had a down day. It changed my life; got me outdoors.”
“Around 1965, there were a group of us who wanted to play. We had to go to Napa High School and hit against a wall for our backboard. The court surface there was too cracked and dangerous to play on. I remember when Silverado Country Club opened and built courts, there was a scramble to join. That’s when the group decided to raise funds to improve the high school courts. People were eager for lessons. Vintage added a couple of courts and the NVTA had an agreement to use them.”
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization says both Bruce and Sarah. Costs of upkeep are high. “One of my daughters is there now, painting the bathrooms,” says Sarah. “We’re trying to increase the access and make improvements.”
What’s in the works?
“We’ll have our Fourth of July tournament fundraiser, the Tennis Classic’s 43rd Anniversary. People come from all over California, Nevada and Colorado. It’s been named the ‘Tournament of the Year in Northern California.’ It’s really popular.” For more information, visit napatennis.org.
What would Bruce say to anyone who used to play tennis, wants to learn or just don’t know if they should get involved in the game?
“We have a great pro, Mike Fischer Jr. the owner of Fischer International Tennis Training (FITT). Come out, meet the pro and talk to him. He can set you up, show you what to do. Volunteer to help. We have all kinds of adult classes, including an aerobic one.”
Fischer is a certified USPTA Elite Professional. He established a multi-level junior program, holds weekly adult clinics and helps adults better their individual and team skill levels as well as reach and work on their playing goals. For information about adult and junior lessons, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NVTA promotes tennis in several ways. It offers assistance to elementary school teachers for grants, equipment and coaches, obtains grants from the USTA for new and continuing programs and offers the HITS program free to youth in the Napa communities (HITS trains youth 10 and under in team fundamentals and life enrichment).
If you are interested in joining NVTA, there are several annual membership options. All plans are valid for one year, except for the limited membership available to USTA teams that want to use NVTA as their home court.
Memberships range from $40 for junior members, $125 individual and $150 for a family household.
“Tennis is important,” says Bruce. “It’s great exercise with social camaraderie. We have Round Robins and hold fun events.”
The NVTA Tennis Courts are located behind Vintage High School in Napa. Parking is in the back lot off Jefferson Street Monday-Friday, and on the weekends, parking is in the front lot off Trower Street. Do not park in the front lot when school is in session. The courts are adjacent to the baseball field and NVTA Courts should not be confused with Vintage High School courts.