Nearly 40 years ago, Middle States hosted its first-ever men’s and women’s Interdistrict Team Competition, pitting top players from each district against one another in both singles and doubles. There, in August 1975 at what is now Bloomsburg University, players took the court with the goal of standing out as one of the Section’s most talented players.
Today, interdistrict competition in Middle States has built quite the history, and holds plenty of significance in regards to rankings and bragging rights, stretching from the Jersey Shore to West Virginia.
But to those regularly involved, one of the biggest draws of interdistrict competition has come off the court.
“In a lot of ways, these events turn into a reunion,” said Ed McQuillin, a Middle States board member who has long been involved with tennis in Delaware and throughout the Section. “As you play in more events and go through the years, interdistrict play becomes a little more nostalgic. You see your friends and people you played against in college or high school, and have a chance to catch up. It’s one of the highlights of my year in terms of tennis.”
For many people in Middle States, this has been the case. Numerous players have been involved with interdistrict play for 20-plus years in numerous divisions.
The events take place in various areas throughout the summer months in Middle States, with many of them rotating between host districts, depending on the year. Captains at each level are appointed by district presidents, and those captains field the team in their respective age group.
McQuillin, who serves as the Head Racquets Professional at Wilmington Country Club, has been around for plenty of the action over the last two decades, playing in the 35s, 45s and 55s. He said he notices that when players experience interdistrict competition, they generally stick around and stay involved for a number of years in the future. His hope now is to see new players – especially in the 35s age group – to pick up interest and try to get involved.
“They really are some of the best events around, and people who compete in them see that,” he said. “Players get a chance to rack up ranking points and get in some strong competition, but with some of the younger categories it can be hard to field a team. Hopefully that will change.”
Middle States Area League Coordinator Jay Witmer, who has been organizing interdistrict competition for the better part of a decade, echoed McQuillin’s thoughts.
“It’s very competitive but it’s also very social,” Witmer said. “This program started out initially as a way to get the better players together, but it’s become more than that. People playing can improve their ranking but also spend time with a group they enjoy being with and don’t always get to see.”
Interdistrict play has had its fair share of changes over the years, adding age divisions over the past decade for those with an interest. The current age categories include women’s 35, 45, 55, 65, 70 and 75, while men’s divisions include 35, 45, 55 and 60. There is a talk of adding more events as interest in additional age groups grow.
Some of the players involved with interdistrict competition also take part in intersectional play, which lines up a Middle States team against other sections on the east coast. The Middle States teams compete each year against the likes of USTA Eastern, USTA Mid-Atlantic and USTA New England. The site of each cup changes depending on the year and surface.
Throughout the upcoming months, Middle States will feature a number of players, captains, and facilities that are heavily involved with both interdistrict and intersection competition. Features will be uploaded on the Middle States Blog and also featured on its social media channels.