Order on the Court
By Jessie Monsivais
By: Jessie Monsivais Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Matthew Westmoreland was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. He began playing tennis at age 10, and by the age of 14, he was traveling around the state and country playing competitively. At 18, he was encouraged by his coach, who grew up in Corpus, to play tennis at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Matthew graduated with his Bachelor’s in Kinesiology and was looking into pursuing grad school when an opportunity popped up to help a friend build his academy in Florida.
“I started as a coach, and then was in charge of marketing and recruiting, and whatever else they needed,” says Matt. “The position served as an internship for 4 months. Then I went out on my own and started working with two boys that were top in the country. That was exciting, and I made a lot of connections there.”
From there, he went onto the Sabiano Tennis Academy, where he worked as a hitting partner with three big names in tennis: Sloan Stephens, Eugenie Bouchard, and Amanda Anisimova.
Matt is a USTPA certified tennis coach, and a USAPA Ambassador for Corpus Christi. As an ambassador, he is responsible for the development and promotion of pickleball. Matt brings a plateful of endeavors for the Corpus Christi Athletic Club – one of them being a pickleball open play, which he established to help build a community within the sport.
“While I was in Florida, we had this little thing growing in the corner – pickleball. It was so random,” Matt says with a big-hearted laugh. “They had 2 courts, and then it expanded to 4 courts, then 8 courts, and by the time I left, they had 16 courts. Apparently, it blew up; there were people there playing all the time.”
Pickleball Open Play has experienced continuous growth, according to Matt. A participants’ list of 20 to 30 names has now grown well beyond 80. Matt said due to the high volume of people, he had to build a league – the first one in Corpus Christi, in fact.
Matt’s ambition doesn’t stop there – he’s also focused on adult beginners, and has created a sequence for adult beginners to learn the basics of tennis and match play.
“My target with this program is people who have never touched a racket, which is one of the hardest areas to teach. I’ve built this whole sequence, from a 101 to feed into a 102 and then into a match play.”
The 101 clinics are free, and designed to teach those who have never played tennis before or played several years ago. The goal for those players is to be able to serve and hit with each other in an hour.
“It’s social, it’s exciting! In three or four weeks, they can learn how to play tennis and move into match play with other beginners who’ve gone through the course, instead of jumping into an actual league where it might be intimidating playing against experienced people.”
Usually, a transition like this takes a year, but Matt is trying to cut it down into a month or two.
“All my colleagues say I’m crazy, but so far, it’s working,” Matt says passionately. “Our mission is to create a junior hub, an adult hub, and events for all levels. We just launched our first 2530, which is a beginner level of a competitive play clinic, and an intermediate and advanced clinic for members and non-members. We want to try to bring everything here and make tennis more accessible. My vision is to have a clinic every single day, morning and evening.”
That’s not all: On Fridays, the Corpus Christi Athletic Club hosts a Friday Play Day, when players of all levels are invited to play. It brings four or five players together from each team, creating a mix of skills, so that everyone can play with unfamiliar opponents.
“That was one of the big things. A lot of people play with the same person all the time; it’s something a lot of people have been asking about. How do we spice it up for them? So we’re working hard to offer it.”