New Ulm Tennis Association has given tennis players . . .An Opportunity to play

Staff photo by Jeremy Behnke New Ulm Tennis Association professional instructor Willis Runck gives lessons to high school players at the New Ulm Recreation Center.

NEW ULM — Even at the age of 70, Wills Runck finds himself busy on the tennis courts around the city of New Ulm.

And even though the winter season is coming up, Runck gives tennis lessons for the New Ulm Tennis Association at the New Ulm Park and Recreation Center and various tennis courts around town during the summer and fall seasons. The lessons are aimed at the junior high and senior high players and currently he has about four players that are receiving them. They last seven weeks and started the first week of November and run through the middle of December.

Because he does the lessons by himself, it gets to be difficult. But he manages to keep the lessons moving and it’s something he’s passionate about.

“I grew up in the rural area, and tennis was more for club people,” he said. “There wasn’t going to be an opportunity for me to go to a club and become a better player, you had clubs up in the metro area and it was expensive. But farming is my occupation and I realized that, so I just took it upon myself to learn as much as possible.”

He started giving lessons for the Park and Rec department in the 1980s and he did some private lessons on the side, which he said was more of a hobby for him back then.

Staff photo by Jeremy Behnke New Ulm Tennis Association professional instructor Willis Runck gives lessons to high school players at the New Ulm Recreation Center.

Currently he’s giving lessons to members of the New Ulm tennis teams, both boys’ and girls’ tennis players. But he adjusts the lessons for the skill level of the athletes.

“There is a progression, according to the level that the student is,” Runck said. “It’s scaled to their skill level, a junior high kid’s lesson will be more instruction level. We might work on serving, or volleying or ground strokes and technique”

Runck said there are a variety of strokes that take a while to learn. While the sport appears easy at times watching it on television, it’s actually the complete opposite for those just learning it.

“Serving is a very complex stroke because it takes years for a student to develop, you have to learn the different motions of it,” Runck said. “The toss, the back swing, the follow through. The ground stroke and the backhand can be developed fairly rapidly if the student is receptive to listening.”

Runck said that there are plenty of skilled players in the area, but that’s not the only thing that makes a successful tennis player.

Staff photos by Jeremy Behnke The New Ulm Tennis Association has a league round-robin doubles tournament on Tuesday’s and Saturday’s.

“Just like anything else, it’s how hard they work, it’s the passion,” he said. “You can have all the talent and all the natural ability you want, but if you don’t have that passion, you won’t succeed. You’ll stop wherever that level is.”

He’s been a professional tennis instructor since 2004. As a high school player, Runck went to the state tournament in 1964 after he took second in the regional tournament.

Runck coached the girls’ tennis program at New Ulm High School from 2004-2009. He also was an assistant under Joe Poncin for the boys’ program.

Currently, the NUTA has a league going on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings at the New Ulm Recreation Center and that’s run by Norm Kopp. There, they play random round-robin doubles matches weekly and the sessions last from 7:15-9:15 p.m. The league is open to anyone who pays the league fee.

During the summer months, the league also plays during the mornings on Saturdays at the various courts in town. The weekly sessions are a good way for those who enjoy the game to get together and compete for a couple of hours each week.

Staff photos by Jeremy Behnke The New Ulm Tennis Association has a league round-robin doubles tournament on Tuesday’s and Saturday’s.

For information on lessons or league play, call Norm Kopp at 359-1160.

NUTA statement

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Tennis Association (NUTA) is dedicated to the promotion of quality tennis in the New Ulm area. We have been in existence for twenty years, serving ages from four years of age on up.

Membership varies from year to year around fifty; comprised of Students ($10/yr), Adults ($20/yr), and Families ($30/yr). We are members of the national USTA organization, which provides training, material, literature, and grants.

The NUTA has a resident United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) certified instructor. This allows us to provide top notch instruction to all ages and talent levels. Including Summer “camps” and Winter small group lessons.

A new offering this summer was a “Net Gen” camp for six and under prospective tennis players. Over 25 children participated. We expect to expand this program next Summer. All are invited to join open play during the summer at the MLC courts. Play is 8-10 a.m. on Saturdays, and 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The NUTA also holds two adult tournaments per year.

One is a doubles format with a combined USTA rating of 7.5 and under. The other, free to members, a Random Draw Mixed-Up Doubles format with emphasis on Martin Luther College student participation. In the Winter (Nov.-March) the association contracts courts at Vogel Arena on Saturday (8 -10 a.m.) and Tuesdays (6:15-10:15 p.m.) to offer open play, lessons, and an adult league.

Those interested should visit the Facebook page at New Ulm Tennis Association.

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