Gladiator Tennis; Tennis on Your Time

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Gladiator Tennis is a business that started right here in Naperville and it allows players to schedule matches against new opponents when their schedule allows it.

How Gladiator Tennis Started

Steve: “There was a need for it, a lot of people were looking for the same thing that I was – it just went from there.

This is a story as much about solving a problem as it is about playing a sport. Steve Hess is the founder of Gladiator Tennis. A league that has more of a “pick-up basketball league” feel, and less of the rigidness of a rec league.

Steve: “All the players will sign up on the website, register for the season. On the day the season begins, they’ll be able to see their schedule of seven opponents and their contact information. And then they contact each other to play

And that is at the heart of the league – the players pick a time and place against their opponents. People they may or may not have ever met.

Lindsey: “I really enjoy it, everyone is so incredibly friendly. I’ve met so many friends and have gotten to play with so many different people.”

Gene: “It’s flexible – you can schedule the times you can play or want to play. It’s competitive, they put you in groups with people that are in your level.

Gladiator Tennis Tournament

Lindsey Rodden and Gene Meeker are two members of Gladiator Tennis and are here at Waubonsie Valley for a singles tournament – the end of summer blow out

Steve: “It’s the largest singles tournament in the Midwest. There’s 350 players across the five levels.

It been going strong for 13 years – the same amount of time the league has exisited. But it wasn’t always as robust as it is today. They had 34 players in 2006. Now they have 13-hundred.

Steve: “The first four years, we didn’t collect any money – we just reinvested everything that was collected back into the business. And then the fifth year is when we actually started to live off the profits.

Gladiator Tennis, the Business

Steve and his wife, Karen, have made this a full-fledge business that started right here in Naperville. They now serve players spanning the Chicagoland area and St. Louis.

Steve: “The players like the flexibility of the scheduling, number one. They like the affordability, it’s only 42 dollars for a 7 match season. And all of your opponents are scheduled for you and you don’t have to go find people, we do that for you.

Gene: “I didn’t want to pay a bunch of club fees and those types of things. I was in a retail store and saw a flyer with some phone number things you could tear off. I called it up and found out about it and have played ever since.
Despite the end of the outdoor season descending on Naperville, the league will continue on indoors… because, for the same reason the league was started: there’s a need for it.

Reporting for Sports Story Sunday, I’m Kevin Jackman