Competition within the Big Ten often takes place on a court. From basketball games to tennis matches, Michigan State University (MSU) is one of the best collegiate athletic programs in the country. The MSU Tennis Center is one athletic facility looking to remain competitive while also forming helpful partnerships with the MSU tennis teams, local high schools and even other universities and colleges MSU otherwise competes against.
The leader behind this balanced space of competition and collaboration is Heather Mactaggart, manager of the MSU Tennis Center. Her love for mentoring young players is a top priority and is clear through her demeanor. She has created personal relationships with tennis center frequenters, such as checking in on them and how their serves are coming along. All with a smile on her face. She is proud to show off the new facilities renovated two summers ago, including the men and women’s locker rooms.
“It was a huge upgrade,” Mactaggart says. “We made it nicer for the men and women’s tennis teams; our biggest partners in the building. They have their own lockers.”
The Spartan helmet logo adorns the carpet and one wall stands out, a collage created to commemorate MSU’s long list of tennis greats. Pictured is a young Diane Selke, who eventually returned to her Michigan roots two years ago as a head pro for the center after a career full of accomplishments. This wouldn’t be the first time Selke and Mactaggart would work together. They were teammates on the MSU women’s tennis team in college.
“I’m excited I get to work here and build this program,” Selke says. “We are getting a good junior program and a good adult program, and now we are thinking of moving to outdoor courts.”
Local high schools and colleges, including Alma College, use the facility due to inclement weather or issues at their own facilities. The center is unique from other Big Ten schools, as it houses eight courts total, four on each side of a walkway, and allows optimal visibility for coaches, college recruiters and up to 1,200 spectators. And if one person knows a thing or two about watching, playing and coaching tennis, it’s Mactaggart.
“My story is a very cool one,” Mactaggart says. “I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to work here for so long and to have such great people to work with.”
Born and raised on a court, after Mactaggart came to MSU for her collegiate tennis career, she never left. After competing came to an end, she transitioned to head coach of the MSU women’s tennis team, leading them faithfully for 14 years. After retiring from coaching, managing the MSU Tennis Center seemed like the next logical step.
Providing more than just tennis lessons, the center offers cardio tennis classes, which are popular for all ages, drill sessions and even travel teams for adults. Everyone, from kids as young as 3 years old to adults can learn to play the game. The Tennis Center also contains a full-service pro shop where team members repair rackets and a Spartan Spirit Shop, one of the only places in town where you can buy official MSU tennis apparel. In addition to the site’s many amenities, the MSU Tennis Center strives for affordability.
“We’re the only public tennis facility in town where there are no membership fees or monthly dues. It’s pay-as-you-play,” Mactaggart says.
The MSU Tennis Center serves as a stepping stone for many employees and players. Mactaggart watches players progress as they begin classes, go on to play high school tennis and then possibly pursue a college career. Several post-grad students or players with professional careers come back to work at the center, Selke being just one example.
“We’ve had people work at the center and then go on to coach at the highschool level and stay in the tennis profession, which is fun,” Mactaggart says. “Selke has great ties to MSU and the community.”
Teaching is the main objective of the MSU Tennis Center, and its reach expands past tennis lessons and leagues. The center also partners with kinesiology students and holds multiple one-credit tennis classes per semester. A wheelchair tennis program is also available.
The center’s future includes possible outdoor renovations and expansion of its classes and membership.
“My dream is to somehow have outdoor courts at some point,” Mactaggart says.
Whether you are looking to join a tennis league, take a cardio tennis class or simply want to be surrounded by people who have loved tennis all their lives, the team at the MSU Tennis Center aims to be the best part of your day.