By Rita Maloof, Junior Leagues Vice President
Wow. Times have changed. I’ve been playing ALTA for more than 40 years. When I started as a junior, ALTA was the only game in town. Everybody in Atlanta — moms, dads, kids, teens —played ALTA. It was fun; it was what we did. Now, the options for youth tennis in the five-county metro area are endless, and the competition for court time is fierce.
Is it still fun to play in the ALTA junior leagues? Are we offering a product that is relevant with the times and attractive to kids today? What makes us different from everybody else out there? Is our participant experience one that still initiates young players into our unique ALTA fraternity and creates lifelong members and friends? I needed to know.
On July 9, 2019, I received an email from Ana McWethy (parent and team manager) asking if it was too late to enter a roster for the fall 2019 Junior Leagues season. She had a group of teenage girls, all but two new to ALTA, that she was trying to pull together to form an 18U team out of Serenade. It wasn’t too late and McWethy got her roster submitted. I decided to reach back out to her to see if she and her players would be willing to share their ALTA experience with us. McWethy and some of her players, Kylie Mudie, Nyhri Mudie, Becca Latty, Molly McWethy, and Noémi Reynders agreed.
How did you convince the girls to try ALTA?
Ana: Most of the girls had played some sort of team tennis, and the idea was to play team tennis leading up to high school tennis tryouts so the girls would get some practice. We started with a handful of girls who knew each other from school. From there, each of them reached out to other girls they knew and invited them to join us. We had girls from several different schools on our roster. It was nice watching them get to know each other and develop friendships. Playing ALTA is nice for these teenaged girls because it’s just girls! The timing of the season is great and worked well with everyone’s schedules.
Most of the girls on your roster played high school JV tennis. What made their ALTA matches different from their high school matches?
Kylie: What makes ALTA different than high school matches is that you get to meet so many different people. When you’re playing high school matches, you already know all your teammates from school. During the ALTA season, you play with people you might never have otherwise met, giving you the ability to create friendships outside of your school environment.
Nhyri: You play different girls from all around Atlanta, not just close by and within your district.
Becca: They are different than high school matches because I get to spend time with my friends that attend other schools!
Molly: ALTA matches tend to have the same level of players, which makes the matches more fun and challenging. In high school matches, teams can have a wide range of levels.
What did the girls enjoy most about their ALTA season?
Kylie: What I liked most was our team spirit and how close our team became. I enjoyed bonding with everyone over the sport we all love!
Nhyri: I liked getting to play tennis with friends when we were not in the high school tennis season. It helped with friends from the high school team create more on court chemistry.
Becca: I enjoyed getting to play with some of my friends and cheering them on as well!
Molly: I like meeting other players from around Atlanta and competing against them.
Noémie: The thing that I liked most about playing ALTA is the kindness from everybody playing and the bystanders. Everyone was always super friendly and helpful, and if I had a problem or concern, they made it so much easier.
Did the ALTA season have any social/developmental impact on the girls’ and their friendships?
Ana: I think the ALTA season did definitely impact their friendships, some of the girls had never met, and they quickly became friends and enjoyed playing together even after the season ended! I love watching them cheer for each other, win or lose. They were so positive with each other and encouraging. The developmental impact for them was very positive. Some girls didn’t normally play doubles, and they quickly learned how to handle that type of game. I loved watching the doubles matches, the girls celebrating a good point and also encouraging each other when they were down. It was amazing watching how their competitive and positive attitudes came out over the course of the season.
Becca: Absolutely! I always think that playing matches allows me to improve, and I also agree that my friendships were strengthened as I got to know my teammates.
Noémie: Playing ALTA helped develop my competitiveness and determination to play well. By regularly playing matches, I improved my mindset on the court and my stress levels of losing went down.
Was there any moment of “girls just being girls” that stood out during the season?
Ana: What I loved was the sweet bond these girls created with each other. This team really was all about having fun, and as we started winning and realizing that we could go to City Finals, their support and excitement towards each other became even more special. They really wanted to win city finals. They realized that team dynamics helped get them there. I told them all the time “one winning line doesn’t get us to City Finals; we need the whole team to get us there!”
Every girl was a huge contributor to our win, and I know they all felt that way, whether or not they played in the finals. I loved seeing all the girls show up for the City Finals and when they won, they were so happy and hugging each other. I loved seeing them taking pictures and being typical teenagers with each other to keep the memories. I love hearing them talk about that day even all these months later about how much fun that was!
Kylie: What stands out most to me was that the team always cheered each other on, win or lose, no matter what.
Nhyri: What I liked was that we were all from different schools and backgrounds, but we all were so unified when we played tennis together.
Becca: What I really enjoyed about ALTA was that our team got along really well and we all wanted to play our best and get better every time.
Molly: What I liked most was that our team was all about supporting each other. Even when some of the girls weren’t in the lineup, we would still come out and cheer and support our teammates. We also never let each other give up! We cheered each other on every time. We also ALWAYS complimented each other on our outfits!
Noémie: Another reason why I liked playing ALTA is because it brings people together. Before, during, and after the games, everybody was always chatting with each other, and they all had a great time.
Would you recommend ALTA as an outlet/safe haven for teenage girls?
Ana: Absolutely! We played the nicest teams during the season. The parents and girls from the other teams were great! It is a place for girls to have fun and play organized matches with other girls their age and with the same interest of trying to improve their game. It’s great to see that on the tennis court. More importantly, my daughter feels like she can be herself 100 percent on the court. She’s not judged on how she looks, dresses, who she is friends with, what her grades are, who she has lunch with… and with this team, she was just was so happy. Tournaments can be so lonely and stressful. Molly prefers team tennis. It’s what works for her and what she enjoys the most.
Do you have any other comments you’d like to share?
Ana: Yes. We realize that we can’t do this without your organization. I hope you understand the impact YOU and ALTA have on these girls. At City Finals, all of the girls felt so special and important. They felt appreciated for all their hard work and walked away with feelings of great accomplishment! We love ALTA!
The Serenade 18u B1 girls’ team won their fall 2019 City Finals match. They did not enter a spring 2020 roster as the girls were spread too thin between school activities and weekend commitments, but are looking forward to defending their title this fall. Moving up to A1 will be challenging, but win or lose, these teens will be back. You see… these girls… just want to have fun!