Michael Kelly Serves Up A Unique Tennis Experience
If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind tennis experience, Michael Kelly is serving-up quite the opportunity. A South African native, Kelly’s life has always been tennis-focused, and now he is sharing that passion with the Alamo City. He and his wife, Soeurette own Shavano Park Tennis Club, the largest privately held tennis club in San Antonio.
Described as a boutique club, it is positioned as much nicer than a neighborhood club with more offerings for the member but without all of the amenities of a country club. It is a very unique niche that seems to work well, as the club will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
The pièce de résistance is the fellowship that has developed. Competitors on the court, but a tennis family nonetheless, the members come together to help raise an average of $25,000 every year to give back to the San Antonio community. Kelly shares how his dreams of a tennis-only club developed and what his hopes are for the future of their club.
How did you start out in the world of tennis?
I started when I was about six. My parents gave me lessons in swimming, karate, and tennis; 10 lessons each. After the 10 lessons, they asked me which I would like to do. I didn’t like anything at first, but I actually kept doing all three until I was about 10 or 11. When I was 15, I gave up the others to concentrate on tennis.
When did you decide to make San Antonio home?
I moved here when I was 22. I was playing satellite tournaments, and I used San Antonio as my base. When I was around 30, I had to decide what I wanted to do. I got a job at Turtle Creek Country Club. They asked me if I would like to come and teach, but I didn’t think I would like it. I really enjoyed it, and everything materialized from there.
Where did the idea for the Shavano Park Tennis Club come from?
I had an idea that I wanted to do a tennis club only. I was super fortunate to meet a gentleman named Laddie Denton, and it is because of him that we are here. He had this property, and he thought it would be suited for a tennis club. He got it re-zoned and gave us the leadership to develop the club. We started it from the ground up in 2009.
What are the benefits of being part of a tennis-only club vs. a country club?
It is just tennis. There’s no swimming, there’s no golf, there’s no exercise room. We are attracting the tennis player only. It allows us to focus on the members and what benefits them. We, as the owners, are not displaced or torn over multiple disciplines. If we can focus only on providing the best tennis experience for our members, then we are going to win.
What is your favorite part of seeing the club grow?
We have over 200 memberships. The best for me is the retention of the people. They have stayed, and because of that, you go from a client to a friendship. It is easy because everyone is here for a common interest. You might not know someone from Adam, but you join the club for that interest in tennis, so it is easy to start a friendship.
What programs do you offer here?
We have two separate programs: one for adults and one for kids.
For adults there is league participation, team tennis, mixed doubles, men, ladies, and so forth. With our kids’ programs, we have afternoons in the spring and in the fall. In the summer, programs run weekly in the mornings. The program encompasses 10-and-under, intermediate, and advanced programs for children.
What do you see for the future of the tennis club?
We won’t add any more actual courts to the club. I would say we will work on maintaining the nine courts we have and making improvements on existing facilities. We’ve established everything and so it is now just a matter of continuing what we are offering at the highest level.
Is there ever a time that you aren’t thinking tennis?
Never! This is a 7 day a week business, so I am here every day. It is 24/7.
Game. Set. Match.
The Shavano Park Tennis Club is perfect for tennis players, new and old. Whether you are looking for a fun hobby or are hoping to get competitive, you will be joining a learning environment that provides a unique camaraderie. The couple is hoping to develop new opportunities for their members, such as team trips to the wine country and family-style dinners at the club. They are enjoying sharing the love of the game with a community who has become family.
By Gabrielle Hernandez
Photography by Janet Rogers