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Greater El Paso Tennis Assoc.

1 Tennis West Lane

El Paso, Tx.  79932

(915) 532-5524



A Chat with GEPTA: GEPTA USTA League Captain Dennis McElveen

April 13, 2014 03:08 PM

A Chat with GEPTA: USTA League Captain Dennis McElveen

A Season to Remember

With the 2014 USTA league season under way we wanted to take a moment to recognize one of our most successful team captains and his outstanding 2013 season.

Captain Dennis McElveen took 2 teams all the way to Nationals last year, 18&Over and 40&Over. With an overall record of 57-5 it was an impressive season that will be difficult to duplicate. However the memories and friendships formed will last a lifetime.


GEPTA: Do you remember the 1st team you ever captained?

Dennis: The 1st team I ever captained was in Killeen, Tx. We had a bunch of diehard tennis players playing on the courts of a local college in Killeen. We played against teams from Waco and Temple. They were a great bunch of guys that I am still in touch with today 12 years later. I guess these guys set the standard for me, meaning great friends, loyalty to one another, and great camaraderie both on and off the court. That time, that bunch of guys, that team, developed in me a love for the game. It was fun and that attitude is what I bring to my teams here in El Paso.

GEPTA: How many years and teams have you captained?

Dennis: Including the years as captain in both Killeen and El Paso, about 10 years. I can’t recall how many teams I have captained, but many; Spring and Fall 18&Over, 40&Over, Senior, and Tri-Level. I haven’t tried mixed yet. That scares the heck out of me. It is easy to say things to guys, who cares if you hurt guys feelings. I have been trying for years now to hurt the feelings of Nathan Brown, Jason Chapman and Floyd Johnson but either I am doing something wrong or else they have the thickest skin.

GEPTA: What got you started playing USTA League tennis in the first place?

Dennis: Before I talk about league tennis I have to talk first about who got me started playing tennis. My life friends Cedric and Debbie White were wonderfully patient teaching me the game. We spent many hours and drank many beers playing and talking tennis. They taught me basics from how to hold a racquet to where to stand on the court. They were incredibly patient and supportive and still are. I am forever indebted to them for bringing me to this wonderful life sport.

League tennis started for me with my friends in Killeen. We would play nearly every night at the college. Playing the same guys however got a little repetitive. So we decided to start playing in the Waco league. It was tough, very competitive, but we had to travel 70 miles one way to play. They were a great bunch of guys and we had so much fun playing the game and hanging out. The fun attitude, the camaraderie developed in Killeen and playing with my friends Cedric and Debbie and my competitive spirit drove me to play league tennis. I love to compete it drives me, and I haven’t regretted it yet! Okay maybe a little at times but I have an incredible support team around me, from my teammates to my wonderfully patient wife, Ellen.

GEPTA: What made you want to be a captain?

Dennis: I became a captain simply because no else wanted to be captain. It is a tough job, and sometimes you feel under appreciated. It takes a lot to be a good captain and it’s a lot of responsibility. My 3.5 team here in El Paso all got moved up to 4.0 many years ago and no one else wanted the responsibility. We had the makings of a good, very competitive team but no one wanted to step up and be captain. My teammates bought me a lot of beers and convinced me that I might be a good captain, I learned that when someone starts buying you beers and stroking your ego to run away. I’m kidding, through all the good times, bad times and heart breaks I have had a great time, make great friends and learned a lot about people.

GEPTA: What part of league play and captaining do you enjoy the most?

Dennis: Competition, structure, camaraderie, friends, loyalty, wining all combine to make it really enjoyable. I guess everyone playing wants those things too. Just giving my teammates consistent organization makes it easier for them on the court. They know that I am captaining to win, so they play to win. However, being a captain is not about making every decision. I couldn’t do it that way. I talk, confide, and rely on my teammates for input. I get great advice from all my guys and that is so important to being a successful captain. This is a team sport therefore everyone’s opinion matters.

It is great to watch my guys on the court playing to win and supporting each other and having a good time. Once you get that positive winning attitude instilled in a player it is tremendous. I love the team effort and when it all comes together it is very cool.

GEPTA:  How long have you played with some of the guys on your current team? What is your strategy for recruiting new player?

Dennis: Recruiting new players is also a team effort. Everyone on the team wants to win so we are always looking for the “right” player to recruit. We have a great core team. All of us love the game for essentially the same reasons, winning and beating our opponents fairly on the court. All of my guys are not only competitive players but quality people on and off the court. Great family men with tremendous family support. Those are the kind of people we recruit. Cheating and attitude have no place on any of my teams. All of my guys are focused on the game, focused on playing the next ball and focused on winning. We look at players on other teams that fit our format and win fairly. If we see a good player on another team WE WILL try and recruit them. All captains do that but I think we offer plyers a winning history and a positive attitude. So if you want to win and go to Nationals…come talk to me or anyone else on my team or we may find you first.  We want El Paso/Las Cruces tennis to win, to represent well at Sectionals and Nationals. If you want that then we want you!

To answer the second part of your question, yes, we have a core group that has been together for a long time.  We’ve added players to that core that have meshed so well with the team including Rafa Garcia, Lorenzo Cortez, Albert Lanza, Alex Trachter, Greg Garcia, Luis Zuverza, and Roger Spain. I couldn’t have survived this long without Jason Chapman, Nathan Brown, Floyd Johnson, Marco Licon and Steve Mora. It is so important to have the solid support of your teammates. Without the core helping to ease the pressure it would just be too difficult. As a captain I will always support my players and I get the same “love” coming back at me. When you have that, being a captain is both easy and enjoyable.

GEPTA: What was the competition like at the National level?

Dennis: Tough is too simple an answer. Every team we faced was great with great singles and doubles players. I think we have the talent at the 4.0 level to compete for a Nationals title it’s just a matter of coming together as a tennis community to put our best team forward. It’s all about playing on Sunday at Nationals. Sunday is the semi-finals and finals. So all you 4.0 captains reading this lets get together and talk about making it to Sunday. The team from Northern that won 18&Over Nationals held tryouts. They were together only one year and they won. They have the population base to create that super team and although El Paso/Las Cruces doesn’t have that same population base we do have a collective talent that can get to that final Sunday at Nationals.

The youth factor at singles did come into play at Nationals. El Paso has great singles and doubles players but we need that strong young singles player in order to compete. All four teams that played on Sunday had singles players in their mid 20’s.

GEPTA: What was the best part of the 2013 season?

Dennis: Winning!! Getting over the hump of always being competitive and even winning at home but just falling short in the playoffs. Not only did we win our 3 seasons in dramatic fashion but overwhelmingly so. We went 45-1 over 3 seasons and if you add the 2 sectionals we were 55-1.  Those are incredible numbers by any standard. I believe we ended up 57-5 after both Nationals. Advancing to 2 Nationals is validation for all the hard work and disappointments. My teammates stuck it out over the years, persevered knowing that we weren’t far off. Keeping the team together, adding the players that we needed to advance to Nationals, setting a goal to advance and actually doing it was just an incredible feat. When a plan comes together it is so rewarding.

GEPTA: Finally Dennis, did you ever think that you would have had such a successful run all the way to 2 National events?

Dennis: No, how could we ever anticipate being so successful? We talked about it and thought we had the team to win and we did. It was such a daunting task. Ultimately we ended up 12th place out of 17 teams at both Nationals. Not bad for a small district in the southwest. We learned what it takes to win at Nationals. We had a great time. We all hung out and ate dinner together, sat around the pool and supported each other on the court. Everyone participated and we even had friends that weren’t on the team show up to just cheer us on. It was a very rewarding year last year to say the least.

We had great team support and I am thankful for all of my teammates. The one person that I owe the most is my wife Ellen. She has not only supported me but my teams as well. She is always there, calming me down when things get a little crazy or overwhelming. She is such a great person and I can’t thank her enough.