Time, patience, sense of humor required of Tournament Director

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Ever wonder what it takes to be a tournament director for a tennis club of 264 members? Time… lots of time, organizational skills, the ability to recruit helpers, patience and the ability to scramble at the last minute.

For the past three years, Ernie Soczka has been TD for Cottonwood Tennis Club. Every tournament, he has the same routine. First, he hangs a sign-up sheet. After the deadline, he and his “Team” create a play-schedule utilizing the various skill levels and the five available courts. The pairings are put on the website and hung on the board. Then the changes start coming in and revisions are required. Play for tournaments normally starts on a Sunday and runs through the following Saturday finals. He also serves, along with his team, as scorekeepers for tie-breakers. Through all of this, Ernie is assisted by his wife Roseann. It’s impossible to be married to someone this deep into tennis without getting involved every time.

Both Ernie and Roseann play tennis. Ernie played wherever they lived and competed in USTA Nationals as a 3.0 while in California. When they first rented in Sun Lakes, Ernie stopped by the tennis bulletin board. Next thing, he was talking to Mary White and had applied for membership. Roseann hadn’t played in 15 years and started by volunteering in the food court. When Roseanne saw how much fun Ernie was having, she started going to the M/T tennis lessons. Before long, Don Neu told her, “You’re ready to play. Get competition. That’s how you’ll get better.” After a few years of playing, Ernie was approached by Al Wagner and Dag Grudem to “Take on a job and follow in the footsteps of Bob Lewis and Bob Walk.” That’s how he became TD.

Ernie and Roseann grew up on Wisconsin farms near Wausau but didn’t meet until one of his friends married one of her friends. Ernie was 18 and Roseann was 15. He took her out for dinner on her 16th birthday. She ordered fish. It came complete with the head, fishy eyes looking up. In May, they will celebrate 52 years of marriage. They have three children and four grandchildren.

Prior to retirement, Ernie was an engineer and ran power plants. Roseann was a pre-school teacher. They lived in Northern California, Southern California and Atlanta before returning to Wisconsin. They looked at several places to spend the winters, but didn’t like Florida, Palm Springs or Las Vegas. They looked in Chandler because the Milwaukee Brewers did spring training here. They first rented and ultimately bought six years ago.

When Ernie completes his TD job at the end of this season, he and Roseann will focus their time on travel and other interests: antique tractor pulling, golf, trivia and pickleball. Ernie said, “The best thing about being tournament director is getting to know everyone at all levels, so many fine people.”