Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
When Susan Elliot, nee Huffman, formerly of Madera, retired from her job driving a special needs bus for the Madera County Office of Education, she had no idea of the treat life had in store for her.
Three years ago, she and her husband, Kaiser Permanente’s Dr. Justin Elliot, took up tennis, playing at the Sierra Sport and Racket Club in Fresno.
She met the assistant coach from the Fresno City College tennis team who invited Susan to come out for her squad. Team membership required she be a full-time college student and carry 12 units. At $45 a unit she signed up for tennis, photography and independent study. The City College tennis program is rather low budget with the players bearing most of the expense for participating.
“The Fresno State coach likes to bring her team over to play against us,” Elliot said.
It reminds them what it is like to play for Fresno City. At Fresno State, the tennis players get financial support from the school that the junior college players can only dream about. Fresno State pays for their uniforms, shoes, equipment, everything, she said. The school bought the FCC players matching jerseys that don’t even have the school name on them.
Elliot plays with two rackets, both Wilson 105 Spins, at a cost of near $200 each. Her racket needs to be restrung about seven times a year at $55 per procedure for materials and labor. She has four or five pairs of tennis shoes that range in price from $129 to $200 a pair.
“If I’d had a bucket list this should have been on it,” Elliot said. “I didn’t know I even wanted this until the coach asked if I was interested, I love it.”
Most of the players on the five-woman squad are not what would be considered typical college-age players. In addition to 63-year-old Elliot, there is 53-year-old Mary Beth Carter and 44-year-old Mollie Amico, alongside the 21-old Lilli Raddivalam and 18-year-old Masha Pirogova.
This has taught her that just because you are retired it doesn’t mean you still can’t have fun, she said.
“I am having such a blast, enjoying what I am doing. Playing with the kids, they respect me, they laugh at my jokes,” she said.
Prior to playing for FCC, she took lessons from Teresa Samstag-Haug and assistant FCC coach Shannon Smith at $125 a week at the Sierra Sport and Racket Club. Smith invited her to come out for the FCC team. Playing college tennis costs about $600 and she believes it is money well spent.
The tennis season lasts until May and they play in the Big 8 Southern Conference under head coach Chantel Wiggins.
“We have the best tennis coaches available in Fresno,” Elliot said.
She has been invited to join the college golf team in the fall, she said.
“At 63 years old, I could be a two-sport athlete,” she said.
This granny has one adult daughter, Kellie Stiles, who has two children. Daughter, Taylor, is 22 and lives in Washington State and Stiles’ son, Brian, 24 lives in Fresno. Elliot has no great-grandchildren yet.