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Q and A: With his third-year tennis league, Josiah Hakala is creating his own competition

Josia Hakala is in his third year running the Farmington Area Tennis League.

Josiah Hakala played tennis at Farmington High School, and his love of competition didn't end with the final match of his senior year. He kept playing after high school, but there seemed to be something missing. None of the matches he played really meant anything. He was playing for fun, not playing to win.

So, he did something about it. Currently in its third year, Hakala's Farmington Area Tennis League attracts 48 players for singles play Monday and Thursday nights on the courts at Boeckman Middle School. Players compete against one another, and Hakala tracks the results online at

The league, which has grown from 36 players its first year, seems to be meeting a need in the area, with players coming from other cities to play. We talked with Hakala last week about how it all came together.

How did Farmington Area Tennis get started?

I had been getting an itch for a few years to be in a league, because whenever I would be out playing tennis it really wouldn't count for anything. I wanted there to be a reason to compete. Back in 2003 I had run a recreational league in northern Minnesota and I had the know-how to run a league. I thought to myself, why don't I get my sister, who has a computer business, to make a website for me and I'll moderate it after that. I figured that was all I needed was the website.

The website answers all your problems.

Yeah. I don't know if it would have been quite as successful without it.

So, it was that sense there was a win or a loss on the line that you missed, or what was it about the competition?

I guess I like stats, too. I like math. One of the facets of FAT League, is everybody has a compiled list of stats that they accrue during the season and it makes it just that much more meaningful, I guess. Going back to the question about what is it about the competition ... back in high school, I remembered getting butterflies when I would be in a match. I don't know, it's something weird about that where it's just meaning so much to you. You get so nervous and yet it's so enjoyable at the same time.

Kind of a rush?


What was the first year like? Did you get much response?

We had 36 players and the next year we had 37 and this year 48. I didn't exactly advertise the league as much as I intended to last year, which is why we only grew by one player last year. But I bumped that up this year and got 11 more.

Did you have expectations coming in, or was it just, let's start this and see what happens?

I expected at least 30 people that first season. When I ran that tennis league it was in northern Minnesota, in Silver Bay, and the population there is 2,000 with maybe 4,000 people in the area and we had 24 people. So, I figured I could easily get 30 the first year, especially since Rosemount, Apple Valley, Lakeville, none of them have a league.

Who are your players here? Is it former Farmington players? You've got some older players here, it looks like.

Jeff here, he's one of my classmates. We played in high school together. Jack Olwell's the tennis coach. Blake Olmscheid is currently in high school tennis. I think he's a senior or a junior next year. Greg Manthey was just on the court. He was a graduate of '06 or something like that. Brian Waldbillig was playing against him. He's on the team right now. So, it serves a lot of purposes. It's a development league for those who are currently in tennis, including myself. I wanted my game to get better, so I made the league.

Do you get a sense of why people are signing up? Is it the same reasons you are, because they miss the competition, or does everybody have their own reason?

We have three people from Inver Grove Heights. A person from Eagan. A couple others from fairly far away. A couple of those do have leagues, but what they do is just have a night where people come out and hit with whoever shows up and there are no stats, there is no website. In this league there's meaning to what you're doing. It's also free. Other recreational leagues charge a fee for the person who runs it, but I figure this is a good thing to put on my resume and I like doing math and figuring out everybody's stats.

What kinds of jobs are you applying for that this will look good on your resume?

It just says that I'm active in the community. Chemistry is my major. I want to get a job in a lab or doing research or something brainy.

So, the structure here is you play singles competitions on Mondays and Thursdays and doubles on Fridays?

Doubles nights are twice or three times during the year. They'll be on different nights. Doubles is technically self-scheduled, and that's because in the singles league there's already enough difficulty with people having to reschedule. Something will come up and they'll have to reschedule. If you add a third and fourth person to that, it's almost impossible to have a full league that way. So, people set up their own matches. But, every once in a while I'll say, everyone come out and we'll have a doubles night and see how many matches we can get in.

You've got some interleague tournaments set up. Is that something you've done before, or is that new this year?

We did that last year. We tried to do it with Rochester in 2009. It kind of fell through, but we picked it back up in 2010 and I also did it with Hastings.

Does that go over well? Do people seem to enjoy that additional competition?

Yeah. It's kind of like, with this everybody's playing each other, and with that we get to go out and be a team together and see how we stack up.

Is that kind of the Farmington tennis pride?


Is it pretty friendly competition, or do people get pretty serious about it?

It's kind of halfway in between. People are taking it seriously. They want to win. They want to beat the guy in front of them. But most of the people here are really collegial with each other. We're all friends.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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