Houston’s LGBTQ Tennis Club: A Beacon of Inclusivity

Board President Kenneth Jones discusses what makes the club so special.

Kenneth Jones (Photography by Alex Rosa)

Love may literally mean nothing in tennis, but at Houston Tennis Club (HTC) there is plenty of love to go around. The local LGBTQ sports group has grown into one of the city’s most successful social clubs since its inception in 1980. Kenneth Jones, PharmD, AAHIVP, president of the board of directors, explains that the success of HTC is due to the incredible support of its members, the hard work being done by the board of directors, and the organic camaraderie that is formed when people gather in the name of friendly competition. 

The nonprofit organization promotes a sense of community as well as competition among its members. The vision of the club, according to their website, is to “increase visibility and create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ athletes in tennis by providing leadership, support, positive experiences, and charitable opportunities.” Jones reflects on the mission statement and adds, “We’re just all about having fun and enjoying the sport that we love.”

Jones was a standout on his high school tennis team when an injury benched him for roughly six years. “When I moved back to Houston for pharmacy school in 2014 I was looking for a group of people to play tennis with. Being away from the sport for so long, I realized that I lost all of my practice partners and the normal contacts that I would hit up for a match at the last minute,” he recalls. “I searched high and low for a social club where I could integrate playing tennis back into my normal fitness routine. I found HTC by just browsing online, and the rest is history.” 

Houston Tennis Club members (top row, l-r) TJ Weaver, Nicky Gaytan, and Chris Shepard; (bottom row, l-r) Roberto Alvarado and Kenneth Jones

The club meets three times weekly (Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday) at Memorial Park Tennis Center, or another public location such as Homer Ford Tennis Center when availability at Memorial is limited. “Unlike other sports clubs, or leagues, members sign up and show up as they please. Depending on the number of players that show up, we divide everyone based on skill level and they play either singles or doubles,” Jones explains. “Every time you show up, someone new could be there, so it’s a lot of fun and allows for practice with a variety of playing styles and different personalities. We also meet up for inter-club competitions for those who are interested.”

Although the commonality between the club’s members is rooted in a love of tennis, the board of directors works throughout the year to offer group social-bonding opportunities. “We like to take things off the court for different events each month,” Jones says. “We’ve done volleyball, pickleball, pool parties, and watch parties for major professional tennis matches.”

While HTC is open to all, regardless of gender or sexual identity, Jones explains that due to court scarcity in the city, they don’t have the capacity at this time to teach the basics to those who have never picked up a racket. “As long as you have the basic skill set, know the rules of the game and how to keep score, then we definitely have members in our club that are on your level.” 

Photo by Roberto Alvarado

As president, Jones explains, his job consists of three pillars. Collaborating with his fellow board members, Jones says he and the team “work harmoniously to get HTC’s name out there, while providing a safe space for fun and to make a difference in our community. 

“My second job is making connections in the community for possible sponsorship opportunities.” One such sponsorship includes Legacy Community Health, where Jones works as manager of the Montrose pharmacy. “I’m really thankful to have gained sponsorships from such large organizations. It allows us to run a successful club, a successful tournament at the end of the year called HouTex, and to donate to deserving beneficiaries that align with our community values. The last part of my job as president is to be open to feedback and make changes to the club to ensure that everyone is having fun.”

With a goal of reaching even more LGBTQ tennis players in the community, Jones and his board have high hopes for this year and beyond. Aside from the organizational responsibilities that the leader happily executes on a weekly basis, it’s the love of the game and his community that truly keep Jones coming back to the courts every week. “As president, I’ve been able to make fitness a part of my normal routine and I’m incredibly grateful for that,” he says. “And not only was I able to get active with tennis again, and even travel for tournaments, but I was also able to gain some of my best friends. I encourage anyone interested to come check us out. We have the time, and it’s our job, to make sure that your first experience with the club is seamless. Best of all, your first session is free!”

Follow Houston Tennis Club on Facebook facebook.com/groups/houtextennis/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/houstontennisclub/?hl=en 
Website: https://www.houstontennisclub.org 




Zach McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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