TIPP CITY — For more than two decades, tennis in Miami County and the name Bud Schroeder have gone hand in hand.
And the owner-operator of the Schroeder Tennis Center in Tipp City is making sure that doesn’t change anytime soon.
Schroeder has turned his lifelong love of the game of tennis into a career, with the Schroeder Tennis Center — a club that offers clinics, leagues and tournaments for players of all ages and skills — celebrating its 20th anniversary in November of last year. And by playing an integral role in helping a number of area middle schools form unofficial club teams this year, Schroeder is hoping to take the next step in spreading that joy to the next generation of players.
“I just think it’s a great game, and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed,” Schroeder said. “It’s been a big part of my whole life. I’m just trying to promote the game as much as I can and share the love that I’ve had for it.”
And for Schroeder, the desire to share that love has been the driving motivation from day one.
“I’ve played tennis almost my whole life,” he said. “I used to play other sports, but once I started playing tennis, I just loved it. I just love the game itself. It’s such a great game.
“I played in high school, I played in college at Towson University in Baltimore, where I’m from, and then at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., where I graduated from. Ever since, I’ve continued to play in a lot of USTA (United States Tennis Association) tournaments, and even as I’ve gotten older, I’ve played in a lot of tournaments. We have members at the Center that are 80 years and older. It’s a game you can play your entire life.”
But after college and after moving to Miami County, Schroeder noticed something while serving as the Tennis Director at Meadowbrook Country Club and Head Pro at Dayton Center Courts from 1988-1996.
“I worked at a club in Dayton for eight years, and while I was working there I saw a need in Miami County, in the Troy-Tipp City area,” he said. “A lot of people, players from the county, were driving all the way to Dayton to play tennis all winter. And a lot of those people would say it’d be nice if we had an indoor-outdoor tennis club up in Miami County. So I started looking into it.
“I had no idea, didn’t really have any money to build a club. I had no idea how to even get one started. I was able to work on it, look into how to start a business and raise money through investors. The main people I sold the idea to were tennis players, and I was able to get some financial support and build the club.”
The STC opened on Nov. 8, 1996, and ever since, it’s been a mainstay for tennis players of all ages in the Miami County area.
“We’re in our 21st year of operation, and I’ve expanded, I think, three times since we first opened,” Schroeder said. “We have seven indoor and four outdoor courts, and we’re all tennis. We keep the focus on tennis. We have a small fitness area for players to work out in, but we’re not a fitness club. We have about 800 people that are members here, and another 200 that are beginner players, so if you want to start tennis, you can come here and get started.”
Schroeder has also been part of promoting tennis at the youth level, helping with a program called Midwest Youth Team Tennis, a summer camp for players under 10 years old.
“We do programs in six towns outside of the club, it’s a USTA program and it’s very inexpensive,” Schroeder said. “That helps promote the game a lot, and it’s in their own towns, too, so they don’t have to go anywhere. This is my ninth year doing that, getting those going. And we work closely with a lot of the high school programs.
“So we’ve got a lot of good things in place. I’ve got a lot of beginner-starter programs to grow the game in different towns, and the next step is the junior high/middle school level.”
But the junior high nut has been a tough one to crack — until just recently.
“One of the big things I always wanted to get started the last 10-12 years was junior high tennis in schools,” Schroeder said. “I had a junior high league here, but it wasn’t associated with the schools. Finally, last year, I was able to come up with an idea of how to do junior high team tennis in some of the schools around here, so I started with one in Tipp. It’s not an official team at the school, not really even a club sport — it’s a middle school team run through the Tipp-Monroe Community Services.
“I’m the volunteer coach, and that way the school doesn’t have to do anything, it doesn’t cost them anything. But it gives the kids that want to play tennis an opportunity to kind of represent their school. Last year, we had 18 kids on the team, and this year it looks like we’ll have 32 or 34. It went so well in Tipp and Northwestern in Springfield last year, that this past winter I felt like we needed to get more schools involved.”
Schroeder has been working with Sidney, Butler and Milton-Union to get teams going — Troy already has had a club team for years. The players pay a small fee, which is used to buy balls and shirts. The STC is hosting a pair of middle school events in the coming weeks, according to its website — a Tipp Middle School event from 7-9 p.m. on March 3, and a Middle School Kickoff from 3-8 p.m. on March 11.
“We’re starting to get a nice little network, which really helps the high schools in the area,” Schroeder said. “You have kids that play from when they were 8, 9, 10 years old, then they’d get to junior high, look around and there’s no tennis team, so a lot of times they would pick up another sport — and the game of tennis would lose them. And I have nothing against the other sports, but my game is tennis, and I want to look out for the future of tennis in this area.”
All because Schroeder wants to share the game he loves.
“I plan on continuing to play tennis myself,” Schroeder said. “I just think it’s a great game, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed, and I was able to make it my job by building a tennis club. I’m just trying to share the love that I’ve had for the game.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.