Fort Bragg has developed a strong following for the sport of tennis. Not because of the actions of Women’s Tennis Association pros Venus and Serena Williams or even the antics of Association of Tennis Professionals top-ranked player Roger Federer.
Fort Bragg’s interest in tennis was rekindled thanks to Andree Levasque.
According to tennis enthusiast Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kevin Wells, who’s assigned to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Levasque, wife of Canadian Brig. Gen. Christian Juneau, who was assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps last year, was a mainstay at the Fort Bragg tennis courts. He said that her personality was so engaging that she encouraged and welcome people to the tennis courts.
“She was an avid tennis player,” said Wells, “She was very social, just a great person to bring people to the tennis courts. She was there almost every day, whether anyone else was out there or not and so she got a lot of people to come out regularly, whether it was Family members, retirees or single Soldiers.”
Wells said the current plan is to take Levasque’s actions a step further and develop an actual tennis association at Fort Bragg.
“We’re going to organize under the U.S. Tennis Association and become its military branch for this area. This allows us to take advantage of their leadership and tennis expertise and organize all of the tennis programs and events at Fort Bragg,” Wells explained.
He acknowledged that while the idea is in its early stages and is still just a social group that meets, its future plans include working closely with Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers to host various events.
He said that once the group becomes a part of USTA, there will be other responsibilities that will allow the group to shine, especially with the various personalities and abilities found within Fort Bragg’s tennis community.
“We’re in the midst of organizing to figure out who wants to take a piece of this ‘elephant’ and work it. Right away, one guy decided that he was going to create a website so that is up and running. Then another said that he would be the photographer and he has great equipment and a good eye for photography, so he takes the photos for us,” Wells said.
“We’re now gelling in terms of leadership to figure out who wants to jump in. One lady who’s a military wife is actually a graphics designer, so she’s creating a logo for us and will work on the graphic for whatever we do. We’re slowly coming together as an organization,” he added.
Wells said the tennis community’s strength is its members and their enjoyment at the sport of tennis.
“If you grabbed a tennis racquet and come to the court, you’d be playing tennis,” Wells said. “And that’s a little unusual. Most times if you go to a court and there’s a program there for you, generally there’s a long wait. But Andree’s ethics were, ‘if you show up, you’re going to be invited to come out and play and we really maintain that.”
Wells said the tennis club has taken on an additional responsibility to go along with the organization process.
“We’re taking on the responsibility of keeping those courts clean, manicured and straightened out as best we can. There’s like a six-man crew where people will go out to straighten up and get the weed and other debris from the courts,” he said.
Wells said that originally, there were individuals contracted by Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation to do the work, but members of the tennis community have taken the cleaning process farther than just blowing debris off the courts, especially now since the post has become a reduced-manpower environment.
He said there are also plans to look into the possibility of sponsoring wheelchair tennis for the Warrior Transition Battalion units, along with the unit’s representative, Lee Whitford. He said they look forward to accommodating wounded warriors who may be interested in playing tennis.
“We’re definitely hosting social events regularly, but we’re going to branch out to try to cover what we feel might discover are Fort Bragg’s needs that involve tennis.”
Wells said it is possible that in the future, Fort Bragg could host a local tournament sanctioned by USTA as well as have a USTA team at Fort Bragg that would face other local teams.