Tennis enthusiast keeps Dick Eagan’s brainchild going, making it easy for fellow fans of the game to find matches and a bit of fellowship.
On a recent Wednesday morning, 15 tennis players were shuffling their feet, serving the ball and joking around.
The players, 14 men and one woman, are part of The Short Academy, a group organized by Longboat Key resident John Short. In 2011, Short voluntarily took over the reins from Dick Eagan and now organizes matches for players six nights a week.
Eagan, who died in 2016, formed the group shortly after he joined the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center. In 2008, the tennis center awarded Eagan the Bernard Ditchik Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service.
In full swing, the group fills up nearly 10 courts during the busy season. During summer, the group is smaller. On, Aug. 29, the players filled three courts with about five players on each.
Short organizes the players based on who is able to play each day. He said most players play often, though some are visitors.
Short said not only is the group a draw for its social purpose, but there is a convenience factor, too.
“I think what draws people is that the matches are put together,” he said. “All you have to do is say how often you want to play.”
Jim Purcell, who has been a part of the group since 2004, said the players range in USTA ratings from high 3.0 to low 4.0.
Tom Kussler moved to Longboat Key in the spring from the Midwest. He joined the tennis center in May and quickly became part of The Short Academy. Not only does it keep him healthy, he said, it’s also become a social activity. Once a month, the players get together for dinner.
Purcell said when the group first started it was usually just one group of four players. Now that the group has grown and is made of consistent players, it flows well.
“It works very efficiently,” he said.