The Philadelphia Liberty Tennis Association (PLTA) will host a holiday tennis social at the Riverwinds Golf and Tennis Club in West Deptford, New Jersey. On Dec. 21, professionals from the club will play tennis with people of all levels in the form of structured games and drills, as well as more relaxed rallying. This year, PLTA, a nonprofit itself, will provide generous donations to The Attic Youth Center and local organization Legacy Youth Tennis and Education.
“When we talked [about] it on the board, we not only wanted to support a tennis organization, but we also wanted to support something that was very LGBTQ oriented,” said PLTA president Matthew Wong. “We thought the Attic was doing great work, and we wanted to recognize that in the form of a donation.”
PLTA serves to provide a safe, welcoming space for members of the LGBTQ community to play tennis and be open with their identities.
“We’re definitely an organization where we value the idea of diversity and inclusion,” Wong said. “And we want that to be seen within the social spaces that we host. So there’s never any fear, especially for people who’ve been in the sports space before [who] understand that there’s this fear of coming out, or not being your true authentic self in typically what one would view as a very male-dominated space.”
The volunteer-run organization aims to foster a sense of community through various gatherings, including tennis drills, “tennis and brunch,” and events like this where people of all levels can meet and play tennis. Last summer, PLTA organized an outing to see Venus Williams play for the Philadelphia Freedoms, the local World TeamTennis club.
PLTA is affiliated with the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA), as well as with Out Philly Athletic League and the United States Tennis Association. The GLTA has been in existence for 30 years and facilitates tennis tournaments worldwide. PLTA hosts the Philadelphia Open during the summer months, which has brought in up to 100 competitive tennis players.
“We are a few weeks away from 2020, but many LGBTQ individuals still experience greater feelings of isolation,” GLTA President Dan Merrithew said in an email. “The PLTA exposes our players to supportive activities, positive relationships and resources.”
PLTA’s upcoming winter social will run from 5 to 10 p.m., beginning with warm-ups and mingling, followed by drills with tennis pros from Riverwinds. Food and a cash bar will also be available. After the presentation of checks to the Attic and Legacy, folks will be randomly paired, based on their levels, with players for doubles tennis.
“It gives you a lot of opportunities just to play all these different styles of players that you’d never play against typically,” Wong said.
PLTA provides tennis programming throughout the summer and winter seasons in tandem with tennis centers with whom they have partnerships, including Riverwinds.
Member registration for this holiday social will be $25, non-members will pay $35, and those who wish to watch the games and socialize will pay $10. PLTA offers yearly memberships for $50. If transportation is a barrier to attending the event, members of PLTA will arrange carpools.
“PLTA really creates that space where people can have fun and play tennis, and judgment is left at the door,” Wong said.