We really enjoyed talking with Brenda Carter about age-group tournaments! Brenda’s story is a masterclass in longevity and love for the sport. Brenda’s journey gives us all hope that one day we can win a Gold Ball or at least try!

Please let us know if you love tournaments and which ones are your favorite! You can find tournaments on the USTA website or Brenda mentioned that Carolyn Nichols’ blog https://seniortennisblog.com has a lot of great information.

You can also find age-group tournaments on USTA’s website.

Here’s a complete transcript of our conversation with Brenda:

Carolyn: 0:09
Hi, this is Carolyn and I’m here with Erin and we’re at the USTA Southern annual meeting and we’re really excited to interview Brenda Carter. She has won numerous gold bars in tournaments. She is 77 years old and in the Hall of Fame for USTA Southern and USTA South Carolina. To Brenda, thank you for doing this. Can you start off by telling us a little bit about your tennis background and how you got involved in tournaments?

Brenda: 0:35
Well, thank you for choosing to talk to me today. This is almost embarrassing, but it’s very fun because y’all are so fun. My tennis background is very brief, because I did get a $6.95 racket when I was probably 10 or 11 years old and we had two asphalt courts in my hometown. A friend of the family who knew how to keep score in tennis took me out one day and I learned how to keep score that day and that I’m supposed to keep it in the box. So that was the only lesson I ever had growing up. Then we had a high school tennis team. I was on the high school tennis team. We played with balls until they were just skinned. We would pass balls around. Somebody would call me and say do you have any tennis balls? Then I bought them for today. It was just really a very humble beginning of tennis Nothing in college. I’m pre-Title 9 and there was nothing available to even work toward. In actuality, my sport was basketball. If I had been able to do anything in college probably would have played college basketball. After college I married my husband and he played tennis and he was in the Navy. We moved to San Diego, California, because this where the Navy sent him. We saw real tennis for the first time in our lives, because that was the hotbed of junior tennis. This is way before leagues ever started. We played tournaments there and just got killed in the tournaments. We still just went out and played every chance we got because that’s what we could afford to do. We had a lot of fun doing it. We met a lot of people. I had a goal of okay, when I’m 55, I’m going to try a national tournament. The first national tournament that I went to was a very nice tournament which is still in existence today, which when you’re in the age group, you really want to try to participate in that tournament because they do such a great job with it. It’s the national clay courts for the odd ages. This tournament was 35, 45, 55, 65, 75. That year was the first year they had an 85s division. I played the number one seed in my first match. She actually turned out to be the number one player by number and she’s still playing. She was from Germany and she came to the States and played usually in this tournament. I played her in the first round and I won 7-6 in the third. It was amazing I actually ended up making it to the semis in that tournament. When I came back I said you know, I think I can play with these people. I’m going to do this again. That was sort of the beginning. That’s a long story to get to the beginning, but that was really the beginning of my national tournament play. I’ve continued to try to play in a large number of age group national tournaments since that time. In some years I’ve played all all. They would have to have a national for all for the surfaces and some years I would play all four and you know some some years I might play three, but usually I play two to four every year. Sink play in singles and doubles.

Erin: 4:15
So I’m going to jump ahead because I actually have another question, but real quick, because you were talking about surfaces. So Brenda still plays on hard courts without complaints, I think. But I just think that’s funny because even at my age I’m playing, you know. I mean I’m not playing these tournaments, but I want to talk to you about doing that. But even in my fifties, a lot of times we’re like we don’t want to plan hard courts because our body hurts after. But you’re playing on all surfaces, it sounds like, and, like I said, without complaint, brenda is not a complainer. So. But are a lot of your tournaments that you play on? Are they’re on hard court or do they try to put you on clay?

Brenda: 4:50
Well, the way the national tournaments are organized, they, like I said that first one was a national clay, there’s a national indoor, there’s a national grass and then there’s a national hard the indoor, and the and the hard, our own hard right, and grasses on grass and so. But you know, now that I’m in Raleigh, I play a lot more on clay than on anything else. But growing up I never even knew what a clay court was. I mean, there was. You know I was lucky to have a court that had lines on it.

Erin: 5:24
Exactly so. Most of our listeners we were Carolyn actually started this podcast mostly focused on league play, because that’s what we do. I want to know a lot more about age level. What do we call it?

Brenda: 5:38
age, age group.

Erin: 5:39
Age level is fine age group tournaments because, like I said, I am over 50 now. But what I was telling Brenda before we started recording is I would love to try these tournaments but what my fear is I didn’t start till I was 40 and start playing tennis at all till I was 40. I would love to try these tournaments but I’m a little bit afraid to sign up because I know some 50 year olds that are like five, fives so I don’t want, as a 40, to show up. But you were explaining to me and maybe explain to our audience. I think there are there different levels of like a level, six, a level five right and I think we just need to look.

Brenda: 6:12
I’ll be happy to try to help you look for those and a lot of the top level players are going to be college players that have really been trained and are really you know. Some of them have even played the tour and and I know what you’re saying. But before I go back to the lower levels and all the national tournaments and some of the the level twos as well, there’s always you play around, you lose, but you go into a consolation. So you have another, another group of people and another opportunity to compete against more people who may be your level and it’s quite encouraging and it’s and it makes it a lot more fun for the players that are there, because you go and you mean you got to travel and you know you don’t want to go and come home after one match, but your age level there are beginning to be more and more players that are that are participating and a lot of people with the same desires that you have. They would just like to like to be a better player. And you can choose to play singles or just you can usually choose. If you only like doubles, you can play doubles in two age groups. So that’s another thought is that you know like you might have a really good partner. That’s 40 and you can play 40s doubles and 50 doubles if you’re. And there are some of those lower level tournaments that are going to have the breaks at every five years. So if you have a will, there’s going to be a way. So I think you can have fun doing it. But I would like to point out that you know it sounds like all I want to do is go and play and win, and but the beauty of the whole tennis world is what you, what you learn and the friends that you make, because those relationships are never going to go away and there are very few bad eggs out there in the tennis world and you never, you hardly ever, are going to be in a situation where you don’t want to participate. And it’s not the, it’s not the competitive nature, it’s the people that are going to draw you back to, to what you really want to do. And you can probably feel that on your teams you there’s some teams that you’re going to have a lot more fun with than other teams, because there might be one person that kind of makes it difficult. But but you know, I I have friends now who are not only all over the united states, but I have friends all over the world that that I’m in touch with and and I care about.

Erin: 8:58
Yeah, okay, I think about a year ago, brenda, I might have asked you a question because you’re coming back from a tournament, but Carolyn and I always ask this of our guests because we play in league so much and sometimes there’s bad line calls. Um, I don’t remember if you, I don’t know if you remember me asking, but how are the line calls at your tournaments? Do you, you guys, call your own? You don’t have officials, right? I think you told me that it was very fair, very fair. Yes, that’s what I thought very fair because you’re making friends and you’re getting to know these. Not not that you wouldn’t call your friends ball out, but it’s just. I think people are just appreciative of being there and happy to be playing in tournaments, and is that the feeling that that’s?

Brenda: 9:36
that’s pretty much.

Erin: 9:38
That’s that’s pretty much it, unlike league, unlike this is part no, this isn’t really part of the reason why I want to do tournaments. But I’m just interested in in playing a different kind of tennis too, like we love our leagues. But actually I ran into you in San Diego. Do you remember that a couple years ago I was in the airport coming home, uh, from going to the um San Diego tournament that they had the pro tournament they have there, and I saw Brenda in the airport with her tennis bag coming home, um, you know, from a tournament there. So and I remember you saying you went out there and you saw a bunch of your friends and played that tournament. So I know you even run into your tennis friends in the airport. And that is correct. A completely different part of the country.

Brenda: 10:18
That is correct. Yeah, that’s how tennis brings people together, that’s right that’s right.

Carolyn: 10:24
Could you talk about winning the 150s? Is that right? 150s with your husband?

Brenda: 10:30
right, right, this was, uh, just. It was just a few years ago that they, that they added the 150s, and what that means is that you and your husband have to add to your ages, have to add together to be at least 150, and so, again, we’re in a peer group. So everybody else, you know you don’t have a 75 year old man who’s married a 35 year old woman, and you know so that’s hard the other way around. But yeah, that that is really special. We have one in the 140s and the one in the 150s, a gold balls and and and we don’t play as many of those as I do play the national tournaments, but we have had a lot of fun. I mean, it’s it’s just been great that we’ve that, we’ve been able to do this all of our lives and we both have our mouths open because more gold balls and they’re in the 150s.

Carolyn: 11:31
Can you also tell us your most memorable moment on the court.

Brenda: 11:34
Well, there have. There have been many. Obviously I think I would have to say this was, I think, year 2006 or 7. I was on a cup team and we were playing in Christchurch, new Zealand, and you have for the international play, you have a week. If you’re on the cup team, you may. You have a week of team play and then the ITF always has an individual tournament the following week, individual age group tournament the following week, and anyone can enter that the age group tournament, and so we played the team week and the next week I played in the individuals and I ended up winning a world championship in singles and so that Again, Carolyn.

Erin: 12:30
Carolyn and I have our mouths open. Nobody can see it because it’s a podcast, but I know she just keeps throwing More words out of so.

Brenda: 12:37
I would have to say that that was, that was a real highlight. That was I was in the 60s then and I can remember you know the time I’m change is so big over there but I was just in shock and I called my husband, I called Harry and it was the middle of the night to tell him that I had Won. So I mean, you know, yeah, that was, that was pretty special. But they all, you know, they all bring back great, great memories. Even when you don’t win, there’s always a good, there’s always a real plus to come out of, whatever happens. So I’ve just been totally blessed by being a part of the whole scene.

Carolyn: 13:20
I was just gonna ask what are the benefits of tournaments.

Brenda: 13:23
Many would give you a different answer or we would have varied answers, but I think in general, the biggest benefit is that we’re playing in our peer group. I mean, you can be a 2-5 or you can be a 5-5 and we’re all, but you’ve got to be 75 or you’ve got to be 35 or you’ve got. You’ve got to at least be in this five-year age group. I could play down in the 45s if I wanted to, but I’m like Aaron and I don’t really want to play that 45 year old person because I didn’t grow up learning how to hit those tall, big old top spin and being that fast. And that is the biggest benefit. And we also have the most in common. We and I think that makes it even easier for us to be good friends when, particularly, you know, as an older person, most of us have children and grandchildren, we’ve lost a loved one, we’ve, you know, we’ve all shared a lot of the same, the same things in life that Either bring us down or keep us going, and the people that come into your life are your greatest gifts.

Carolyn: 14:43
And so, aaron, are you gonna start playing tournament?

Erin: 14:45
Yes, I was gonna say don’t make us cry on our own podcast.

Carolyn: 14:49
We really appreciate Brenda coming on the podcast. I also wanted to mention that Brenda is very kind and humble. She did not want us to include the number of gold balls she had won from national championships, but Paula Hale, who used to be the president of USTA Southern, told us that if you had to melt down all the gold balls she won, you wouldn’t be able to fit it in your pocket because it would be so big. We hope you check out our website, which is second serve podcast, calm. Thanks so much for listening and hope to see you on the court soon.