The Roosevelt Island Tennis Association (RITA) is a volunteer-led community tennis association promoting the enjoyment of tennis for all adults. It has been functioning in one form or another for over 35 years. Initially, it was simply a Singles Challenge Ladder formed as a way for players to meet each other. It was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in May 1996 with Joyce Short as the president. Now, we host a variety of events and act as the liaison between the tennis permit-holding community and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), which approves the permits and owns and maintains the Octagon Park Tennis Courts.
We are run by a volunteer executive board consisting of four elected officers and three appointed advisors. I am the current President, and have been serving since 2004. The other elected officers are Vice President Alex Vologodskii, Secretary Alexis Villafane, and Treasurer Beth Schrum. John Dougherty is the sole appointed advisor at the moment. We review the rules governing the use of the Octagon courts with RIOC on an annual basis, and try to determine the needs of the tennis community and either supply those needs or convey them to the proper provider.
Since the New York Junior Tennis League provides programming for youngsters, RITA focuses on adults. Perhaps the most popular offering by RITA is the low-cost group lessons aimed at beginner and intermediate adult players, offered weekdays in the evening. Classes are typically offered in a block of four lessons to a group of four players of the same level for $50 (making each individual class $12.50).
Our signature event is Saturday morning doubles. RITA players gather to play social doubles from 10-12. Then, from 12-2, players who wish for more competitive tennis play matches for the Doubles Ladder. During these hours, there are four courts reserved for RITA play, and tennis balls are provided. The officers and executive board members take turns hosting the event, setting the teams to start play, and rotating players in and out of games. These games are included in the cost of annual membership. Prospective RITA members are welcome to attend one Saturday to “test the waters” and see if the organization is a good fit for them before joining. We reserve three courts on Sundays from 10:00 to noon. Generally, the stronger, more competitive players make use of this time.
We also host pot-luck picnics and round-robin play on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day.
We hold an annual Club Championships Tournament for all members who have been participating in the Saturday Doubles round-robins and/or lessons throughout the season. Generally, we are able to hold separate events for Women’s Singles, Men’s Singles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Doubles, and Mixed Doubles. This season, these events will be held over the last two weekends of September and the first weekend of October.
The final event of each season is the annual year-end wrap-up awards ceremony in November, held at either an area restaurant or on the Island. The trophies for the club championships are awarded, and players reminisce and vow to work on that sketchy backhand next year.
This year’s Opening Day event will be Saturday, April 18, starting at 10:00 a.m. All interested players are welcome. Current members can renew their memberships, and new members can join on the spot. There’s no need to sign up in advance; just show up with your racquet and tennis shoes. It will be a great opportunity to meet the RITA executive board, meet fellow players old and new, and play some social doubles. In years past, we had a pretty vigorous Singles Challenge Ladder, but interest in it has dwindled in the last couple of years. One goal for this season is to encourage more interest and activity in the Singles Challenge Ladder.
While it is necessary for all RITA players to have a RIOC-issued tennis permit (available online at the RIOC website) in order to access the courts, it is not necessary to be a member of RITA to use the Octagon courts. However, we feel we have a lot to offer to a wide range of players for the annual $20 membership fee (which has not increased in over 25 years). In addition to the weekend play with free balls, the holiday events, the low-cost lessons, and the competitive-ladder play, members can use our ball machine for individual practice for only $2.00 per hour. We are registered with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) as a community tennis association, but we receive no funding from them. Membership dues and tournament entry fees are our sole source of funding.
More information about our organization can be found on the RITA website, RITAtennis.org.