TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS

November 2016

Tennis Book Review
November 2016

The Team

by Pat Cunningham Devoto

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Web Site
Reviewed by Rich Neher

"The Team" on Amazon
(Kindle and Paperback)

 

What's on the back cover?

Ah yes, it’s time for another season of tennis…

They have been together for years, the girls, on the same team, lolling through the seasons—such a pleasant way to socialize and at the same time get some exercise. The perfect excuse for lunch and a glass of wine afterward. But this season, there seems to be a slight fly in the ointment. There is a new member on the team who, ridiculous as it may seem, wants desperately to win…at any cost. And damn, the team has made the colossal mistake of electing her captain. Halfway through the season, the girls can see that they might have to take matters into their own hands. They might even have to take the law into their own hands.

 

How does the author describe her novel?

Certainly a novel about tennis is a departure for me. I have often wondered why I was drawn to the sport as an adult. I didn’t play as a child—not from a lack of effort on my father’s part. He loved the game. For me, it’s not the skill. I certainly was never a star, and quite frankly I’m not thrilled about sitting for hours watching the stars play. (Born in the South, it’s a sin to get a thrill out of watching anything other than football.) So why, then?

I think because of the socializing aspect. Over the years, tennis has afforded me lifelong friendships. You can’t beat sharing with your doubles partner and your team—mixed doubles, women’s, seniors, whatever—the fun of an afternoon in the sun.

Also, because it’s wonderful exercise—not too much, not too little, appealing to my innate laziness. You can play doubles for a couple of hours and then be about other things. And of course age is not a prohibiting factor. You can play at some level almost forever.

As a sport, it’s remarkably adaptable. In my volunteer hours with the USTA, I have started tennis programs for children in the inner city, for an elementary school in a small town, and in a women’s prison facility in Alabama. I’ve helped organized league play for adults all over the Southeast.

More than anything, for me it’s such a wonderful place to people watch. The characters in The Team all come to realize that the way they play the game is a reflection of how they live their lives. Are all games that way? Yes, to some extent, but after all is said and done, tennis, as one of my children said many years ago, “It’s just a good ol’ game.”

How do others describe this book?

Marilyn Sherman (USTA League National Promotions Manager) on Amazon:

Having read Pat Devoto's first four books, I knew I would enjoy the story....I knew I would LOVE the content! As a lifetime passionate tennis player, coach, administrator, volunteer, and fan, I have believed that tennis is a gift (and it comes in many packages!) It is also a study in human nature and Pat captures this perfectly with each team member and her assorted quirks, personal issues and judgements of "right and wrong". LOTS of humor and yet Pat delivers the message that tennis doesn't build character but instead reveals it! I have had the pleasure of knowing thousands of tennis players on hundreds of teams and every one of them will say that league tennis brought them weekly joy, sense of accomplishment, FUN, an occasional dose of humility, friends for life, a family of choice, and the best social network ever invented! GET this book for your whole team as a holiday gift!

"Southern Reader" on Amazon:

My favorite passage from the book is: Cici stepped forward. "The whole season rides on this match." Kate stood up. "Forget it Cici. The only way we're going to win this match now is if the patron saint of tennis drops down out of the sky with her magic wand and vaporizes Sets In The City." And guess what, somehow it happens...but it ain't very saintly. It is very funny!! If you have ever been in a women's group, (it reminded me of my running group) you will love this novel.

What did I get out of reading this book?

What the back cover doesn't mention is one of the most important facts about this novel: It's about tennis in Atlanta! Atlanta? Yes, the "Tennis Capital of the World" as I have been calling the area for many years. In my estimation there are more league tennis players in the Greater Atlanta area than in Northern and Southern California combined! Adult league tennis in Georgia, the largest District in the USTA Southern Section, is big and it's legendary. After all, here is where it all started with pilot programs in Macon and Rome - and it was Pat Devoto who started it for the USTA in 1978.

Pat says about recreational tennis, "the secret is a good doubles partner." And that statement is at the core of her novel The Team. Female league players in Atlanta are famous for their dedication to the game, their friendships formed through tennis, and their social activities before and after those league matches. And don't forget their outfits!

Pat's book is all about those Atlanta tennis ladies and their way of life. Yes, there is a crime story interweaved and yes, the life stories of each player on the team are interesting and enjoyable to read, but the way the team captain approaches the season and her team players' reactions are so very much Southern/Georgia/Atlanta style.

I had to chuckle several times reading about those Southern ways. This joke, which player Kate whispers to M.J. at a funeral has been around forever, says it all: "How do you recognize an Atlanta woman at a funeral? She's the one wearing the black tennis dress." In this town, where "...it's not how far you live but how close you are to an expressway," even the language is strange to me, a Southern Californian by way of Germany and Pennsylvania. Example: "It was a rather large Tudor in Dunwoody, an upmarket part of Greater Atlanta, peopled with newcomers - as most of Atlanta seemed, at times, to be peopled with newcomers."

Player Mary Julia (M.J.'s daughter), a newcomer, had her own, unique view of the team. Pat writes, "And the team - the sameness of playing year in and year out every spring and fall - now it had turned into this singular experience, out in the sunlight, walking up to the courts and seeing them all standing there waiting for her, like comfort food. That was what the team was like, comfort food."

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pat's novel about "The strength, humor, and unmitigating gall of women in groups." I realize, if you're not a tennis player this book may not be for you. But, hey, there are over 25 million tennis players in this country, with 15 million ready to start the game any day now. This book may just be the ideal Christmas gift for many of them!

2015/2016
Book Reviews
David Berens
"Break Point"

Rocky Lang
"Learn Your Game"

David Sammel
"Locker Room Power"

Mike VanZutphen
"Tennis Management"
 

Becky Gunn Holmes "Totally Tennis For Me"

Joe Parent / Bill Scanlon "ZEN Tennis" 

Bill Patton
"The Art of Coaching High School Tennis"

Frank Giampaolo
"Tennis Parent's Bible"
2nd Ed.

ABOUT PAT CUNNINGHAM DEVOTO

Pat was born in Florence, Alabama, where members of her family have lived since 1820. She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a BS in Secondary Education. The mother of two sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren lives in Atlanta and Alabama.

Pat writes about some of her more memorable experiences as a result of writing:

  • Having my second novel selected as the book of the year for, Alamance County Reads, in North Carolina -"What a great group of volunteers, and talk about a well organized event. No stone was left …".
  • Being a featured author in Southern Living -"YIKES, people keep that magazine FOREVER, and so, years after it appeared, people e-mail me, 'I was sitting in my doctors office today and happened to pick up…'".
  • Being a Books-a-Million President’s pick for my second novel - "I was blown away by the displays in the BAM stores - cute promo buttons on all the clerks."
  • Being a featured Alabama Author for Cullman City Schools, in North Alabama - "A wonderful promotion of reading–beautifully done by that school system. They even had billboards, no less!."
  • And having my first novel, that I morphed into a play, win a reading at Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Great fun, all of it."

PAT CUNNINGHAM DEVOTO'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO USTA ADULT LEAGUE TENNIS ARE LEGENDARY!

Annice Seelig, USTA League pioneer in the Pacific Northwest and nationally, wrote in the 2005 book "USA League Tennis - A Celebration of 25 Years" about Pat Devoto:

And when asked what she enjoyed the most about the leagues success, Devoto responded, "The enthusiasm of the players who loved participating and being able to come to a national tournament." She feels privileged to have been able to watch the league grow into the largest league program in the world.

The USTA honored Pat Devoto with the 2016 USTA League Volunteer Award. Devoto was recognized at the USTA Semi-Annual Meeting, Sept. 3-6 in New York City.

The award, established in 2015, recognizes and honors the many volunteers who have provided leadership and made significant contributions to the growth and enhancement of USTA Leagues, both in their section and nationally.

Devoto has been a part of the USTA since 1978, helping get the cities of Macon, Ga., Rome, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., and Greenville, S.C., off and running with its USTA League programs. She was an integral member of the USTA League Committee from the beginning, serving many years while also serving as the League Coordinator for USTA Southern. She single-handedly built USTA Southern League Tennis into the most popular league tennis program in the country with the highest participation.

“Since day one, Pat has been a visionary and pioneer with the USTA League program, helping create opportunities for tennis players across the board,” said Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “Pat is the epitome of what a USTA volunteer represents and we are appreciative of her dedication. Her passion for the sport is second to none and we are honored to present her with this award.”

Pat Cunningham Devoto
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