Growing up in Baltimore, Md. Melissa Stark began playing tennis at 6 years old and has always considered it an important part of her life. Now, to most, football is what she’s known for.
Stark works for the NFL Network, hosting a weekly show on Sundays called GameDay First, where she kicks off the network’s pregame coverage. Previously, she worked the sidelines for Monday Night Football, covered the Olympics and worked for ESPN.
“I’m just a competitor at heart,” said Stark. “It’s why I play tennis and work in sports. I love the drama and intensity of it. For me it’s like the ultimate reality television show. You never know what’s going to happen or what the result will be.”
That competitive edge is what drives Stark to excel in tennis.
“I play singles much more than doubles,” said Stark. “I like being out there on my own and being able to control everything. I love the strategy of tennis. What I love the most is the problem solving out there and figuring out what my opponent’s weakness is and trying to prey upon it. That’s pretty much my entire game.”
Stark took about 10 years off from tennis to start a family. She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and four kids. When her kids were old enough to start playing tennis, she signed them up for lessons and found her own way back to the sport.
“It’s such a great lifetime sport,” said Stark. “We all like to play tennis and golf because you can play them forever, but I’m trying to instill in my kids that with tennis, you can be active and fit for your entire life. It’s great exercise but you don’t feel like you’re exercising because it’s so much fun.
“I just love playing in a league like this,” said Stark. “I’m in my early 40s and it’s a fun group of girls who just likes to come out here, stay active and have fun.”
Her USTA League team from New Jersey recently won the sectional tournament and is heading to California this year to compete for a national championship. It’s bad timing for Stark as it falls right in the middle of football season, but you can be sure she’ll be rooting on her team from afar.