Brenda H. Neurell won’t describe tennis as a hobby. Considering she’s spent more than 60 years in the sport, who could blame her?
“My whole life I’ve loved the game,” the lifelong Philadelphia native said. “I love the people, the competition, and everything else about it. It’s taken me all over and introduced me to so many people and things.”
“All over” is an understatement. Known simply as “B.J.” to many in the Middle States tennis community, Neurell has played tennis in just about every place imaginable, from Oregon and California to nearly every state in between.
Now at 76 years old, she shows no signs of slowing down.
Tennis involvement for B.J. began when she was a 14-year-old girl growing up in Philadelphia. Once she picked up a racquet, there was no looking back.
“Someone in the neighborhood formed a club, and being someone who enjoyed athletics, I tried it,” she said. “In tennis, it’s all on you as a player. I’m a person who likes to be responsible for my own mistakes and accolades, and tennis did that for me.”
From her first tennis experience through present day, B.J. has been a highly-competitive player with a passion and drive to improve each and every time she stepped on court. That drive has led to national tournaments in numerous age categories, time spent coaching, and a group of contacts and friends she never would have met without the sport.
Years ago, B.J. had a chance to meet tennis legend Althea Gibson during a trip to Boston, and in 1994, met her husband, Norm. They still play husband/wife tournaments and share time and experiences on the court.
B.J. said she would love to see every child and adult try tennis, and can go on for hours describing why. She takes every chance to promote the sport to potential players of all ages and wants to see everyone, no matter what their background, have an equal opportunity to play.
“Tennis crosses every generation,” she said. “You can play it your whole life and compete on your own terms. You can’t do that in many other sports. Other sports can be great, but the longevity is limited. Every age can play tennis and enjoy it. For me, it’s helped me maintain my physical health over a long period of time.”
Her dedication to improving is outweighed by only one other goal on the court: having fun.
“That’s what this sport is all about,” she said.