By Kevin Wittner
SURPRISE, Ariz. – As engrained as the Thursday night players’ party or the crowning of a national champion, the exchanging of gifts is a rite of passage of sorts for teams arriving at USTA League National Championship events, and this weekend’s 6.0 and 8.0 Super Seniors are no exception.
Some teams opt to bring pins or other traditional knickknacks from their home state – as evidenced by the "I Love New York" pins provided by the 8.0 Eastern men’s team from Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., the Colorado flag pin courtesy of the 6.0 women from Aurora, the Hawaiian code of arms from the Honolulu men, souvenir silver spoons from the 8.0 Eastern women of Buffalo, N.Y., or the St. Louis Arch pin that the 8.0 Midwest men’s team swapped with their opponents.
Other teams opted to hand-make gifts. The 6.0 Texas women from Fair Oaks Ranch personally stitched "Howdy from Texas" with a pair of tennis rackets onto kitchen towels a few teams were fortunate enough to receive. Also in the towel category, the 6.0 Southern women from Murfreesboro, Tenn., had some fun with words as their opponents left with towels embroidered with "Tennis-see."
Similarly, the 8.0 Intermountain women from Salt Lake City, Utah, made tennis bracelets; not of the diamond-laden variety that the ladies would have preferred but rather the more thoughtful beaded style.
While some of the men’s teams opt not to participate in the tradition, the 6.0 Florida men from Naples arrived with a gift they likely would be happy to receive: drink cozies to help keep their favorite beverages cool and sweat-free in the sweltering Florida heat.
"I just think it’s a nice camaraderie to create rapport and drops the tension," said Billie Warner from Texas 6.0 women’s team. "Although I’m sure the men hate it, but the women like it."
Perhaps most prevalent, however, are the various local food products shared such as the Chesapeake Bay crab cake spice from Maryland, coffee from Hawaii, the Pearson’s nut salted nut rolls from Minneapolis, dried cherries from Washington state, taffy from New Jersey and the ever-popular Puerto Rican rum.
The 6.0 Northern California women of Fresno gifted roasted almonds grown on the ranch of one of the players’, Hilda Fisher, uncles. A three-and-a-hour cooking process during which the nuts were roasted and seasoned with butter and sea salt over a low heat was a treat for their opponents, as were the locally grown Fresno raisins.
The women from Lake Forest, Calif., went against the norm and brought a food not local to Southern California. Instead, they shared the popular Red Hots candies, as it is their team name.
The gifts ensure all players leave feeling as if they won something and have unique memories to take home with them.
for more news & photos from the 2010 USTA League 6.0 & 8.0 Super Senior National Championships.