Game, Set, Match 18

OKC Tennis Center Serves State and Regional Players

How old is too old to play football or soccer? There are very few sports that can be played for a lifetime, but tennis is one of them. Five-year-olds all the way up to 70-year-olds can play competitively, thanks to the USTA system that uses the National Tennis Rating Program, which allows for participants to play skill-based level tennis. Players at the Oklahoma City Tennis Center are connected by their level and skill sets, and when full-court play becomes too challenging, there’s always the option to play doubles.

“We have programming for everyone,” says Steve Henry, director of recreational programming at the center.

The enormous job of hosting 60 tournaments a year and managing the facility’s classes isn’t for the faint of heart. A deep-rooted passion for tennis gripped Steve at a young age, but not as young as most.

His involvement with the center over the last seven years came from a nontraditional path toward management.

“I started out when I was 19,” he says. “The high school I went to didn’t have a tennis program, and I didn’t get married until I was in my 30s, so for 10 years, all I did was play tennis five to six days a week. Whereas most people would have played from age 12-22, I kinda took a different approach.”

This premier, award-winning tennis center sits at Will Rogers Park and is one of the largest public facilities in the Central time zone. Alabama has the closest comparable center. Because of the scale, the center can accommodate the state high school tournament, which finished up in May.

“It’s a special event because there’s so many people here,” Steve says.

All school classes—4A, 5A and 6A—are present during the state tournament and welcome over 2,000 spectators each day. With all of these onlookers, family members and players, the city draws in some serious revenue.

“My role here is to promote the facility, promote tennis and promote our city with tournaments and leagues.”

And he has done that. In recognition of his efforts, the CVB recognized Steve as a hometown hero for the amount of tourism the center brings to Oklahoma City.

In addition to revenue, the center provides smaller-town participants a quality training facility and highly experienced instructors. Steve recounts the experience of a player from Nowata, Oklahoma.

“There are approximately 3,800 residents in her town,” he recalls. “Imagine how that player felt when she came to this city and saw that there’s 24 courts in our facility and there’s only two back in her hometown, and there’s 2,500 people at the tournament, and there’s only 3,800 back in their whole town. Their eyes are like silver dollars!”

Even for those who don’t plan to go professional, many options are available for tennis lovers. On Thursday and Saturday mornings, the center hosts adult drill groups for those wanting to hone specific skills without signing up for long-term classes. They also offer six, one-week summer camps taught by college players. Pricing begins at $70 per week for 5-9-year olds. The children receive instruction for 10 hours a week, “and that’s less than daycare,” Steve says. Also, the center offers year-round programming through their academy, which instructs 5-year-olds through high school students. 
Classes meet two to four times per week for all levels.

But, how can the facility train a 5-year-old using a high-performance ball and a standard-sized court? Thankfully, the facility has dedicated courts that fit the size each child needs to gain confidence and skill. They have dedicated red, orange, green, yellow and high-performance ball courts.

Being focused, dedicated and getting quality instruction are key elements to the success of any athlete, and, fortunately, the OKC Tennis Center offers a third of that pie.

“It’s really about getting good instruction and hitting enough balls to perfect the craft,” Steve says.

If an adult or child is willing to put in the effort, the center has all the right facilities, instructors and classes to match each person’s needs. The rest is up to the player’s inner motivation and coachable attitude.

Steve and his daughter, who also plays tennis, adopted a quote from Kevin Durant as their motto for sports, “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” He has lived this level of commitment, and, thankfully for the center, he’s got administrative as well as athletic talent.

is located at 3400 N. Portland Ave. and is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit OKCTennisCenter.net.