Athletes brave heat to play tournament
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Although the temperature reached 93 degrees for the day, it did not stop the competitors at the Muscogee Nation Festival Tennis Tournament June 16, at the Okmulgee City Courts-Hawthorne Park.
Competitors, young and old braved the heat and sun to play and have fun.
Festival Tennis coordinator Vicki Tate said there was not a big turnout, but was happy at the turnout of the younger players.
“I saw more of the youth coming out this year and playing,” she said. “Some never tried and were practicing with the ones that have been playing because of their interest in the sport.”
Muscogee (Creek) citizen Ekvncate (Red Earth) or Timothy Barnett said he has been playing for as long as he can remember.
“All my life,” he said. “I have been playing tennis.”
Barnett said tennis is more of a thinking game than it is physical. He wants people to know that you have to be in great shape to play, but it is more of a mental game to be able to push yourself for the whole game.
“These games can last a long time,” he said. “You got to know when to pace yourself so you will not use all of your energy at the beginning of the game.”
He said he loves seeing Native Americans play the sport.
“Our people have adapted to this game very well,” Barnett said. “Some do take a bit, but once they catch on they do amazing.”
He said when he found out that tennis returned to the Festival he could not wait to play in the tournament.
“When I heard it started back up I was ready to play at that moment,” Barnett said. “I was very happy and look forward to all the years that tennis will be here at the Festival.”
Barnett said when playing this sport, there is an opponent, but since it is an outdoor game there are the elements as well.
“You have the heat,” he said. “Stay hydrated. I have been playing forever and you figured I would have learned by now.”
He said those that want to give tennis a try do not need a partner.
“Get a tennis racket, a ball and find a wall,” Barnett said. “Work on your backhand, forehand and serve. Like other sports, it is about control.”