Do you know a Drop Shot Demon or Queen of the Lob? Amy and Carolynn have launched a tennis business producing t-shirts and gift items for tennis players called CourtMerch.

In this episode, Amy shares her journey of falling back in love with tennis after a long hiatus, leading her to captain a USTA team, while Carolynn opens up about how a sabbatical in Australia helped her overcome her initial reluctance to play. Together, they found a community in local tennis clubs and shared their experiences through league play.

Transcript of our discussion

Carolyn: 0:07
Hi, this is Carolyn, and I’m here with Aaron, and today we are excited to have Amy and Carolyn join us. They are rec players from Michigan that play on multiple teams at multiple clubs. They contacted us to tell us they love the podcast and have launched a tennis business producing t-shirts and gift items for tennis players called Court Merch Erin. I think it’s fantastic when people take their love of tennis and create something. So thank you both for coming on the podcast. Absolutely Thanks for having us. Can you tell us about your tennis background and how you met Amy? Can you go first?

Amy: 0:40
Yeah, sure, I’d love to. So I started playing tennis when I was 10 and played through middle school, played in high school a little bit, and then I took a long hiatus and I kind of poked in and out for years after that, mainly in the summer when I could play outdoors easily. And when I moved to Ann Arbor about 20 years ago, I moved to a place that had free outdoor courts so I enjoyed again playing in the summer. And then one of my daughters expressed interest in tennis and that got me into an indoor club and I looked around and I thought, oh, this place looks pretty cool, maybe I should come here, because my daughter’s interest wasn’t that strong. But I was actually pretty intrigued by the place and so I kind of asked around and I started taking some lessons and then I just got further and further into it.

Amy: 1:28
That was right before the pandemic. When the pandemic hit I had nothing else to do work and play tennis, and tennis was very pandemic friendly. So like many people, I put on a mask and gloves and went out there to hit plenty of balls. And then I found out about USTA about three years ago and started getting into that and actually my entree into USTA was to be a team captain. Because my coach said well, you’re new, nobody knows who you are. If you captain, you can grab players and you can put yourself in games and you can be in charge. And I thought oh, that sounds attractive. But, as you guys full know, there were some strings attached.

Carolynn: 2:07
You were duped, you were tricked. Yeah, exactly, I was like what is this role?

Amy: 2:12
But it led me to meet a ton of people and, yeah, that got me further into it. And then, about a year ago, I joined or started playing at a second club in Ann Arbor called Racquet Club, and that’s actually where I think I met Carolyn on the courts for the first time. Turned out, we belong to the Huron Valley the other club as well. So, yeah, we just saw each other a bunch of times and I thought, wow, this woman is a really strong player and she’s very funny and fun to play with. And I remember we got paired. I think I don’t think we had ever played together, but there we were in a USDA match together and she just had the right attitude. You know, she was like, look, let’s just have fun out here. And I said, yeah, if we have fun, we’re going to win. Let’s have fun and win. And that’s exactly what happened. So I was like, yeah, this is a great partner.

Erin: 2:59
And yeah, the rest is history. Yeah, the rest is history. So, carolyn, what about your? And we’re going to call Carolyn Carolyn with two N’s, my.

Carolynn: 3:06
Carolyn is one N, your Carolyn is two N’s, Thank you. How about your tennis background? Real quick, what did? How long have you been playing? And I was too embarrassed to play tennis because I wasn’t a tennis player and I thought of course everyone was looking at me. So we spent a four-month sabbatical in Australia and I figured that was safe. Joined a little tennis class, met some friends, found out what a social sport it is, Found out nobody is watching you on the court, you barely are watching yourself. And so came back and started playing at our little tennis club. And then the pro there told me about the indoor club where Amy and I are also both members and I started playing year round and got really addicted. And yeah, I mean it’s. It’s such a social sport.

Erin: 3:54
I love it same in your area Because we always wonder, you know, what other parts of the country look like. Is it a different, you know? I mean obviously it’s social, but we’ve interviewed people in New Jersey and they were like it’s super hardcore. And I love that you guys are both league players now, because that is our, our main audience, but it does it sound similar to our experiences.

Carolynn: 4:20
I think so. Yeah, I think when we were listening to your some of your podcasts, we can relate to every single story. So yeah, and sometimes it’s hardcore, but I think that we’re both trying to take the attitude of like this is not, you know, the center of our worlds, even though it is the main thing that we do all the time. But yeah, it’s not life and death.

Erin: 4:40

Amy: 4:41
Yeah, I would agree. Yeah, when I listen to your podcast, I’m like, yes, here, here, like things really resonate, and I’m like, oh my gosh. Like when I found you guys, I’m like we have found our spiritual sisters in another part of the country, like this is great. I was like Carolyn, we need to take a road trip and meet these guys, cause like they’re in another part, but they’re like in an alternative universe, where things are unfurling in just the same way that we’re experiencing them.

Carolynn: 5:04
Yeah, beware, we might take that road trip.

Amy: 5:11
Yeah, we love USTA. I mean, we love the personalities, we love the you know crazy rules. We just try to enjoy it and embrace it, no matter who’s on the other side of the court. It’s always a different experience. You just never know who you’re going to. You know be paired with or be paired against. And that’s what keeps it interesting.

Erin: 5:28
Yeah, so I want to ask about how you started Court Merch. But what I also love about your story is it’s similar to Carolyn’s and mine, where we met on a tennis court. We were friends and then, during the pandemic, we actually started this podcast. But we have such I hope it’s similar we have such different skill sets that Carolyn and I this podcast just worked for us. You know, she’s really good at some things, I’m really good at others, and so I want to hear about your business together and how that got started.

Carolynn: 5:54
Like Amy was saying. I mean we sort of hit it off. We have similar personalities where we both like joking around a lot, we like to have fun on the court and so a lot of times we would say, that would make such a funny T-shirt or we should, you know, sell a course about this or that, and we just the more we said it, the more it just became like we had to do it. And then we thought, well, how hard could that be? And then we found out that it’s a lot more work than we thought and things you know happen all the time. But that’s where, like, having our different skill sets has really come into play.

Carolynn: 6:24
So Amy is definitely like got the organizational background. We’re both already small business owners outside of this business and so we both have skill sets. From that. I have a more creative side, I think. But Amy has been like making all kinds of flyers and doing a lot of the designs too. So you know, we just sort of thought that it would be fun to bring a lot of this stuff into other people on the courts and see like more color and fun out there. And it’s been kind of funny because we have sold to a lot of people that we know and we’re seeing a lot more court merch and that’s been really super fun.

Erin: 6:59
That’s great. So so I have a question for Amy what’s your favorite shot?

Amy: 7:04
My favorite shot. Oh, my goodness, I mean Carolyn’s going to wince here because sometimes she plays against me, but it’s the drop shot. It’s the marshmallow, the cheap shot. I just love it.

Amy: 7:16
I’m left-handed so I confuse people as it is and yeah, and I just feel like the drop shot’s really underutilized. So I’ll usually pull it out like mid match. So they haven’t seen anything like it and they think they’ve got me kind of labeled and figured out and then all of a sudden they’re just gonna, you know, they’re tired and this ball just kind of dinks over and they have to race like hell to go get it and I’ll throw a few more of those in, and so I really enjoy that. I enjoy the response. I enjoy watching people run.

Amy: 7:45
And you know, if I, if they run and crush it past me, then that’s what I deserve. I’m fully okay with that.

Carolyn: 7:52
Do you say, do you laugh when you do it? Do you smile at them afterwards? Or fist pump? Yes, I do.

Amy: 7:57
I laugh, and you know this maniacal laugh, and very deep from you know laugh, and very deep from you know the core, and that further rattles them. That’s funny. Yeah, so did you know. And that’s I say, that’s why people don’t like playing against me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry you had to run on the tennis court. I know you came out here to relax and have a good time, but I’m sorry, this is what you’re gonna get sometimes. That’s funny.

Erin: 8:22
So did that shot or any of your sayings give you ideas for your tennis apparel then?

Amy: 8:27
Oh yeah, yeah, we have a drop shot demon shirt. Drop shot demon.

Erin: 8:32
We need to order one of those for our friend Paula.

Amy: 8:34
Oh yes, Our friend Paula has the most Drop shot demon in your network Wicked drop shot.

Erin: 8:39
She actually made it into the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame and she talked about that drop shot and everybody in the room went, yep, yep, that’s Paula’s shot, everybody knows it.

Carolynn: 8:47
Wow, that’s kind of how one of the original lines that we started was with the drop shot demon and the queen of the lob, because those are the two shots that people are kind of known for they frustrate your opponents. And we thought literally every team has a queen of the lob, if not two, and drop shot demon just came out of that, I think so that’s great.

Erin: 9:07
This is longer than probably fits on a t shirt. But we have a friend who has three daughters and she was playing a game of lobs, just lobbing, lobbing, lobbing. So her opponents were actually lobbing her and she literally said to her partner I could do this all day. I’ve got three daughters. I have more patience. I have more patience in the world than anyone, Right?

Carolynn: 9:29
That’s perfect and I think we can fit it on a t-shirt.

Carolyn: 9:32
Oh yeah, you probably can. We can shorten it. Yes, okay, amy. What makes Court March different from other tennis apparel or merchandise sites?

Amy: 9:42
Yeah, so Court Merch is a very personal brand. We really cater to our customers. We are tennis players, we speak, we talk to other players and we are here to accommodate players. So we can take special requests, and we have. For instance, we had a customer reach out from California who liked one of our designs. She was looking for a gift for a captain and the shirt says what does it say, carolyn, about herding?

Carolynn: 10:08
cats. It says I’m a tennis team captain because herding cats wasn’t challenging enough.

Amy: 10:13
That’s right. She wanted that we had it on a t-shirt and she said I would like that on a hoodie and I would like my captain’s name on the front. And so Carolyn turned that design around in about 20 minutes, put it up on the site. She ordered it. It worked really well. So there was that we have a player that was from Poland and she said I would love a shirt that says like love and miłosz like Polish for love intersecting with a tennis ball for the O. And she just said that during match play and I was like, oh, I got a request here. This is great Design that Put it up. She loved it. She’s wearing it. Now.

Amy: 10:54
We wrote a blog post about her. She loved the blog post. She put it up on Facebook, shared it with everyone, shared her love of tennis and her Polish heritage with everyone, and it just made a really great story and it let people see she’s a doctor and it let people see another side of her. She’s a great tennis player, she’s just a lovely person and so we were able to tell her story really nicely her tennis story. So that was great. We also been getting requests from players to make shirts for their teams.

Erin: 11:25
That’s what I was going to ask.

Amy: 11:26
Yeah, requests from players to make shirts for their teams. That’s what I was going to ask. Yeah, we have an international collection, for instance, with sayings like Ale or Vamos. And one of the people we actually were playing against saw our Ale shirt and she said, oh, this would be great for our team this summer. Can you put that? Have that on the front, but have our team name on the back? And we said, absolutely. So. We created that. We put a link to our on our site and then players were just able to go to that link and order independently. So she was able to extricate herself from this whole process. Just send people to our website. We were able to handle all the orders. She just wrote to Carolyn and said this has been a terrific experience. We’ll be back to you next season as well. So that was great.

Carolyn: 12:09
That’s great. Could you write, get one that says I’m sorry or my bad, that my partner can look at constantly, like on my back or something?

Carolynn: 12:19
or what is it in words on the court, but yes, I agree, or don’t yell at me that your opponent can see.

Carolyn: 12:26
I’m sorry that you need that, yeah, or it’s my call, right.

Carolynn: 12:30
Yes, or I am sure Right.

Erin: 12:31
I’m trying to think of all this Win it out, call it out yeah.

Amy: 12:35
These are all great ideas, you know, and I love the idea of carrying shirts. I think this is the next step carrying shirts in the tennis bag and just changing Right tennis bag and just changing right, just based on, depending on who you’re playing against.

Carolynn: 12:49
Yeah, or how we have. I play ad and I play deuce shirts and we played together in a couple of matches now and amy is generally the deuce player, but both matches recently we’ve switched, uh, halfway and we were like now, what do we do so?

Erin: 13:00
we’re really confusing people. That’s good. It’s always good to confuse your opponents so maybe they’re focused more on your shirt, and then they’re going wait, they’re on the wrong side. Yes, rather than actually, you know, focusing on the ball and yeah, I love that.

Carolyn: 13:13
Thanks very much to Carolyn and Amy for joining us. We’ve included a link to court merch in our show notes. Also, we have one more episode where they tell us the craziest situations that ever happened to them on the courts in Michigan, and one story involves balloons. Thanks so much for listening and hope to see you on the courts soon.