» News

Got a Minute?

March 26, 2013 01:07 PM
Ken_Stegemiller_(2)In spite of the accompanying photograph, Flex Leagues have nothing to do with body-building contests. The leagues are for people who want to play friendly, recreational tennis matches with folks their own age and or ability. The USTA has been promoting Flex Leagues for about the last six years. In the USTA’s Northern New Mexico District the leagues took off in earnest about four years ago.  For the last two years, Ken Stegemiller, 67, has run Flex Leagues in Albuquerque—the only city in the Northern New Mexico to have them.  During this time, Albuquerque’s Flex Leagues have drawn the third-greatest number of registrations among places in the country where the USTA sponsors the leagues. Recently, Toby Smith sat down with Stegemiller to find out about the leagues and the source of their success here.
How did your connection with Flex Leagues begin?
I had finished with a local seniors program in 2008, then called the Silver Racquets.  I was coming back to tennis after being away from it for thirty-some years.  I had played recreationally in college in Indiana and a little in the Air Force, but I was never a member of the USTA.
How did it start locally? 
Lynn Begay, then the NNMTA’s president, became interested. She especially liked the idea that Flex Leagues were strictly recreational.  You cannot qualify for tournaments by playing in a Flex League.  Flex League play doesn’t affect your NTRP rating. Lynn asked Terry Hernandez to head up Flex Leagues here, which she did for two years.  I took over for Terry in 2011.
How do Flex Leagues work? 
Everything—sign-ups, score reporting and schedules are online.  We have four leagues during the four seasons of the year.  Each league runs nine weeks.  You sign up and then about three weeks later, I published the schedules for all flights.
What do you mean by flights?
We have skill levels 3.0 to 4.5 and, if needed, 2.5.  Each level of play has its own flight.  The ages I use are adults 18-49, seniors 50-60 and super seniors 60 and over.  Play is offered in men’s and women’s singles and doubles, and mixed doubles. At first I offered 40 flights. Now I start with about 28 flights on average and when a season is over I’m usually down to about 16.  I guarantee that every person in every flight will get a minimum of five matches during a season. 
How do you handle all this?
For instance, in a singles flight, I try to be flexible. I publish suggested play dates for their matches, but it is only suggested. Everyone is listed with phone number and email. If you play doubles, you sign up with a partner. Say there are four in a senior women’s 3.5 singles flight. All four will get in contact with each other. Matches are two sets. If you split sets, we use a tiebreak. After a match is over, one person agrees to enter the scores online at  www.ustaflex.com.
Where do you play matches? 
At any public court in the city you wish.  Those who belong to Flex Leagues do all the arranging for sites of matches.  Some private clubs will comp a guest or guests if they’re there with someone in a Flex League.
Do you play Flex League? 
Yes, I’ve played in every Flex League since the beginning.  I’m a 3.0.  I play super-senior men’s doubles and senior mixed doubles. 
What’s the great attraction of Flex League?
That you can play a match whenever you want  A lot of seniors and super seniors feel confined by the schedules of USTA league matches, which don’t allow for much flexibility.  Even if you’re going on a vacation, in Flex League you can work around it.
Why does Albuquerque have so many people in Flex League? 
We’re lucky with our weather.  We can play tennis year round.  I don’t think Albuquerque gets credit for the number of people who actually play tennis here. In 2011, I had 519 registrations and in 2012, 555 registrations. That’s counting all the flights in which people participate. 
What if someone doesn’t show for match?
The published rules are clear about no-shows. You can either reschedule or take a default.  
Why do you keep playing Flex League?
It’s relatively stress-free and it’s a great way to meet new people.
Do you have to be a USTA member to play Flex League? 
No, but there’s a discount if you are. Singles for USTA members is $25 and for non-members, $35. Doubles for USTA members is $20 and $30 for non-members. 
When is the next sign-up for Flex League?

Registration for the spring league begins on Easter and runs until April 21. Play begins April 27 and runs until the end of June. Registration for the summer league will take place about July 1. 

For more information, contact Ken Stegemiller at nmflexleague@gmail.com or 505-268-9132.