BY AJ TRAGER
LIVONIA – Tim Ross loves tennis. He started playing the sport when he was in fifth grade and has continued to follow his passion for the sport, not only in his routine tennis matches, but also in team management.
He has been playing with the Motor City Tennis Alliance (MCTA) since the 1990s when the organization was less active and had significantly less than the 50-70 members it has maintained in recent years. Today, Ross serves as the vice president of the organization and plays an integral role in organizing the 12th Motor City Tennis Classic, an annual tennis tournament held at the Franklin Athletic Club in Southfield.
"I love being involved with MCTL. I feel like I'm not only giving back to tennis but also to the LGBT community. I feel like I'm a part of it. I like donating my time to a worthy cause," Ross said.
The MCTA was established in 1991 for LGBT tennis players to come together and enjoy the competitiveness and joy of the sport without being harassed or discriminated against. The group is as inclusive as one can get, accepting members of all sexualities and gender identities so long as the interested party is over the age of 18.
Players of any skill level can join the MCTA, which offers games of varying levels of intensity ranging from beginners matches to pro or club level tennis bouts. They cater to everyone, including mixed doubles with co-ed teams.
Unlike professional tennis, MCTA hosts opportunities for players to face off year around. During the summer MCTA hosts singles and doubles leagues wich play in Ferndale or Livonia, and in the winter members can sign up for doubles games on Sundays at the Franklin Athletic Club. For $20 players can enjoy two hours of tennis, food, fun and prizes at the Saturday Night Doubles Mixers held every other Saturday at Franklin Athletic Club.
"I love the sport. It's great fitness. Tennis helps you develop hand-eye coordination; it's aerobic and can be team oriented. Not only does it really help ground your life and fulfill you, but it helps your spirit. Getting on the court and playing develops camaraderie," Ross said.
Even though Ross is engaged with other tennis teams in the area, the MCTA holds a special place in his heart as one of the first community spaces where he felt comfortable coming out of the closet back in the '90s.
"The Motor City Tennis Alliance saved my life," Ross admitted. "I was in the closet — I wasn't openly gay. Getting out and playing on the court and meeting other gay people playing on the court really gave me a sense of community and a stronger sense of self. I'm not afraid of being who I am or doing what I do."
For just $25 a year, MCTA members enjoy the benefits of an intricate social atmosphere while participating in outdoor games and building community relationships. Along with the singles and doubles tournaments, MCTA hosts annual fundraisers and banquets that gather monetary contributions that are then donated to nonprofit organizations in the area such as Affirmations and Gilda's Club.
This year's spring and summer season will begin on May 14 and will carry through to just before Labor Day when MCTA plays its last game of the season at Stevenson High School in Livonia on Aug. 27. MCTA is always looking for new members to join. Interested parties can contact Ross at 248-224-3076.
To learn more about the MCTL, visit their website at http://www.motorcitytennis.com.