As an All-American basketball player at Cheyney University in the late 1970s, Milt Colston remembers his days sprinting up and down the court, battling under the basket and running pick-and-roll plays from the top of the key.
These days, all of those experiences are helping him on the tennis court.
A 3.5 player in the Philadelphia area, Colston recently competed at USTA League Section Championships in the 55 and Over division. Colston, who won a Division II National Championship in 1978 with legendary basketball coach John Chaney, found tennis in the years after college and has been an avid player ever since.
“I used to play basketball with some younger guys, and I had to walk past the tennis courts to get to the basketball courts,” Colston said. “One day someone playing tennis started talking to me about it. He gave me one of his racquets and I decided to try.”
Colston knew he found a sport he could play for a long time. So, as basketball games became tougher and tougher to find on a daily basis, Colston began looking for tennis matches. Self-taught, he took the racquet given to him at Simon’s Playground in Philadelphia and turned it into a frequent hobby.
Fast forward nearly 24 years, in 2016 Colston decided to join a USTA League Tennis team. His team – a 55 and Over squad based in Philadelphia – advanced to Middle States Section Championships in September. The team, captained by William Scott, is full of former college athletes from sports like basketball and football. All discovered tennis later in life, and many now play on several USTA teams.
“It was my first year playing with USTA or playing in a league like this,” Colston said during Section Championships at Hempfield Area Rec in Landisville, Pa. “I’ve always thought of myself more as a schoolyard player.”
By playing with an 8.0 combo team, Colston plays with and against players rated higher than him. He enjoys that aspect of the game. He also competes in USTA Tournaments, most recently at the 4.0 level.
He sees plenty of parallels between basketball and tennis, and said that his past experience in athletics helps him on his new court of choice.
“Any time you play up, it makes you better,” he said. “You have to have a focus and you have to play every point hard. Just like in basketball, you need to be able to get around the court. Playing defense, quick movements and change of direction – all of those add to it.”
And just like when he was in college, Colston never backs away from competition.
“You can’t become frustrated out there,” he said. “I know that there are a lot of guys out there better than me. There are guys out there that might be more skilled. But I like playing them anyway. I welcome that challenge.”