Alumnus officiates tennis matches

You could sum up John Rodenberg’s (MBA ’71) relationship with tennis like this: 40-Love.

He’s been with the sport nearly 40 years and still loves it.

It all started back in the late ’60s when he took tennis in a physical education class while an undergraduate at Montana State University.

The net result of that one decision? A love affair that has left him with a court full of memories.

Like umpiring a celebrity doubles match when Microsoft mogul Bill Gates and Pete Sampras took on founder Jeff Bezos and Andre Agassi.

Or calling lines for more than 100 matches at the U.S. Open.

Or just playing doubles with his son (they’re ranked nationally in the USTA father and son doubles division).

So exactly why has he stuck with tennis for so long?

He offers three reasons: “Everyone needs a hobby”; “in the business world tennis is considered a social sport you can do with colleagues” (important in his real job as a business adviser near Tacoma, Wash., who helps small businesses get off the ground); and “it’s good exercise for the body and mind.”

And exercise for his schedule. Today, as a nationally certified tennis official and chair of 85 officials in the Pacific Northwest section of the United States Tennis Association, he spends 20-plus weekends a year officiating tennis.

“I enjoy being right there and watching really good athletes,” Rodenberg says.

But his start in officiating certainly lacked the luster of a U.S. Open or celebrity match. In 1988 as a tennis club manager in Oregon, a small tournament needed an official to call scores. He rose to the occasion, literally, by hoisting a chair up on a table, scaling the rickety makeshift arrangement and calling the shots.

His next move in officiating was, well, more official. He took courses to become an official and memorized a 400-page rule book.

He didn’t play tennis at DU — “They didn’t have a program then, and I doubt I would have been able to make the team anyway,” he says — but he is familiar with DU tennis today and is impressed by it.

“They have a strong program and I’m glad to see that,” he says. “The sport can give you some great times.”

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