SPOTLIGHT: Snowden Grove Tennis Center in Southaven
They say tennis is the sport for a lifetime, but it is also a family sport, and one of the best outlets for creating lifelong friendships that endure on and off the court!
No place is that more evident than the Snowden Grove Tennis Complex in Southaven, as tennis interest in the city and surrounding areas has boomed in the last decade. What started out as a four-court complex grew to a 12 court complex in 2017 that now hosts year round entry level programs, leagues, tournaments, high school teams, and a Men’s Pro Circuit professional event! The facility and its programs continue to expand, with plans to build even more courts in the coming years!
Michael Johnson, who was hired by the city of Southaven in 2017 to be the Tennis Director, has seen the sport grow more and more popular in the past several years, so much so that it has become one of the major hotbeds for tennis participation in Mississippi!
“Tennis participation has really grown over the past several years due to having a great facility and offering grassroots programs for adults and juniors,” Johnson said.
“The Mayor understands the value of what having great facilities offers the citizens, and the City of Southaven is one of the most Parks & Recreation oriented places I’ve ever been around that really gets it when it comes to appreciating the benefit of a great public tennis facility.”
The Northwest Mississippi Tennis Association, a volunteer association of tennis players eager to grow and develop the sport, have also contributed to the growth in the area by marketing Snowden’s programs, leagues, and events to the public. Perhaps the most notable program for growing tennis in recent years at Snowden has been the Tennis Apprentice program, which is a six week, once a week lesson program for adults to introduce them to the game as well as meet new people.
“In the 10 years we’ve been running Tennis Apprentice, we’ve introduced over 400 new adults to the game, and many of them are still playing today in some capacity,” Johnson said
“Once classes are completed we offer Cardio Tennis classes they can filter into, and as they continue to improve they are usually ready by the next season to play in our 2.5 Rec Leagues as well as the social mixers and special events we have. I think if you offer programs that are inclusive for both juniors and adults and make sure everyone has a great time, the rest will take care of itself. At the end of the day it’s not always how good of a player you are, but how enjoyable the sport is and the interaction with new friends, that’s the biggest secret to a successful program to me.”
Check out these testimonials for stories from actual participants that will give further insight into the impact that tennis has made on the lives of those playing out of Snowden Grove in Southaven!
“I signed up for the tennis apprentice class just as I was finishing chemotherapy. I wanted to step out of the box and try something new. Tennis has given me so many new friends and I cherish their friendships. It has also helped me gain my strength back mentally and physically, and for that I am so very grateful!” Ashley Parker——
“As a mom of three with my youngest heading off to college, I saw the writing on the wall. I needed to fill a void that was inevitable. I started playing tennis in 2020 and have met some wonderful ladies that I now call friends. I started with tennis apprentice and now captain a 2.5 team. (Now, I don’t even answer the phone when my kids call) hahaha” Karen Hehir —
“My husband and brother-in-law wanted to show Michelle and I how to play so we would have things to do together. Over the last three years, we’ve learned an enormous amount and have met friends to boot. Really can’t beat that.” Loretta McKim——
“Tennis has given me such a sense of community with so many strong, confident women whom I admire and can call friends. I barely knew how to hit a ball when I started playing tennis a few years ago. I am thankful for the knowledge and connections I have made!" Lauren Person————
“Interestingly enough, I signed up for tennis apprentice as a bonding experience with my foreign exchange student from the Netherlands. She nor I have ever played and it was evident. We were blessed with such patient instructors! We would go out to the courts and hit at night as a way to stay active but unfortunately her time was cut short and Covid forced her to go home. Covid would have driven me insane if I didn’t suddenly have a community of people I had met on the courts and then started meeting on the courts more and more often. Now that community is friends that really feel like bonus family. Well, when we aren’t opponents during a USTA match!” Lindsey Garner ———-
“It started as something to do to during quarantine for my family and two out of the four of us became obsessed and then Karen invited me to beginner cardio where the obsession grew. Never did I think I would meet so many fun ladies who were just as obsessed as me. I don’t know if every tennis group is like Southaven’s but we definitely have great tennis family.” Tammy Robertson——
“I think the best part is I actually love y’all kicking my butt so much it doesn’t feel like exercise!” Pam Johnson——
“My story is very similar. Started during Covid, then onto the Tennis Apprentice class then addicted haha! All of you make it so fun and I love how we all encourage each other, cheer each other on even when we’re competing against one another!” Stephanie White ——
“I started playing right before covid hit and quickly became hooked!” Michelle McKim——
“I was asked to join the apprentice class by a friend in 2021. As a 47 year old, I had never played organized sports, but liked the idea of trying something new with my friend. The tennis bug bit both of us pretty hard! Fast forward to 2023…I am on my second year of being part of a team that includes 3 of my fellow apprentice classmates in addition to the wife of one of the classmates. If you had told me back then that we would be supporting each other through important life events I would’ve never believed you. I’m so thankful for that class that was just going to be “a fun thing to try”. One thing that wasn’t mentioned in apprentice class…some of the friendships you make may become some of your dearest and cherished friends.” Christine Ohrberg——