Tennis anyone? If you are even remotely interested in tennis, set your sites on The Vancouver Tennis Association (VTA). This fun, active club offers 50 weeks per year of scheduled programming for its membership.
Currently sports-minded West End residents can find a wide range of sports clubs to keep them active like badminton, bowling, curling, hockey, lawn bowling, softball, and thankfully – tennis.
The Vancouver Tennis Association (VTA) was established in 1991, the summer after the Gay Games were hosted in Vancouver. Do the math and it’s year 25 – time for a community celebration, VTA style!
To commemorate the occasion, the VTA community has printed special – edition T-shirts branded with a banner identifying the 25 year milestone. The club is busy creating a video montage featuring many members past and present talking about their personal experiences with the VTA. Finally, don’t forget to watch for the VTA in the Pride Parade, proudly displaying signage commemorating its 25 years.
This is a remarkably active club that offers an abundance of organized programming year-round. In addition to its own programming, the club is active in many community events, including fundraising.
All of this activity requires intense organization from a relatively small pool of board members and other volunteers. It is often a huge challenge to juggle all this activity. New members, therefore, are more than welcome.
Members of VTA are often like a big happy family. Take, for example, a recent landmark birthday in the club. Bud Foley, a founding member, had his 80th birthday celebrated with a surprise BBQ party after a Sunday play session at the Stanley Park courts a few weeks ago.
Past President Brian Bella recounts a memorable match from a few years ago when two of VTA’s more advanced players made the doubles final of the Stanley Park Open tournament. They had played two aggressive players who had very homophobic fans.
Their fans heckled VTA’s players and made it very uncomfortable. But VTA members turned around the potentially explosive situation.
“We have a very supportive club”, says Brian, “and when someone is playing in a tournament a lot of our players come out to watch and cheer”. By the end of that match, which VTA won, the homophobic slurs were overwhelmed by positive cheers!
Challenges in Development of VTA
One of the challenges for the VTA is to secure long-term court time that is affordable and accessible to members. Brian Bella appreciates an ongoing, steady relationship with Stanley Park. He also notes there’s always risk that it could change.
Another long-term challenge is the recruitment of women. Although there is a steady female membership, the current 12% is too low to organize women’s – only events.
This is a challenge in GLTA tennis clubs throughout North America. Various ideas and activities have been attempted. Discussions on this matter with other tennis clubs in North America are ongoing.
The VTA has always been an open club accepting everyone of any level. Although they do not currently offer novice play sessions, they have in the past and will likely do so in the future. The VTA welcomes all players covering the whole spectrum of LGBTQ+ (even straight people).
The club holds a registration night in the spring of each year, usually at a restaurant/bar in the West End. They welcome new members to come out and learn about programming and events; returning members often come out to catch up with each other.
During Pride Weekend VTA runs GLTA, the Vancouver International Pride (VIP) tournament.
It attracts players from all over the world. They also hold a welcome draw party and a tournament banquet. In addition, they facilitate hosted housing for out-of-town participants.
The VIP tournament is fabulous to just come down and watch, but it’s far more fun to participate in. Since 2000, every year during Pride Weekend matches are on from 9AM until dark.
The VIP tournament is part of the GLTA World Tour and everyone is welcome (you don’t have to be a VTA member nor do you have to be a member of any club.) There’s a welcome reception and a banquet included in the admission price.
For the current level of programming to continue, a dedicated Executive Board and many committed member volunteers are essential. Further recruitment for new active membership is important.
While the VTA is very successful in fundraising during their VIP Tournament and even make a significant charitable donation to a local community group each year, they would like to increase community outreach with some novice programming.
When asked about VTA’s dreams going forward, current President Harry Young replied that “a permanent home would be awesome”.
Brian Bella sees “a VTA more active in the gay and tennis community where we become leaders in fundraising”. He continues to say he’d like to see the club “increasing tennis participation throughout the LGBTQ+ community, including (and) especially those of lower incomes and young LGBTQ+ people”.