7 things you need to know about Glen Iris’ George Ward Tennis Center, from a State Championship to pickleball!

The James Lewis Tennis Scholarship, Inc. 12 and Under intermediate team that plays at George Ward Park just won the Auburn State Championship.
Coach Rudy and the State champions. Photo from James Lewis Tennis Scholarship, Inc. via Facebook

The 12 and Under Intermediate Team from Birmingham’s George Ward Tennis Center just won the Auburn State Championship. Since we think that’s pretty cool, we decided to find out more about the team’s big win and the place where they train.

Read on for all the details, including how you or your kids can play tennis or pickleball at George Ward.

1—The 12 and Under Intermediate Team just won the Auburn State Championship

The 12 and Under team at the George Ward Tennis Center just won the Auburn State championship.
The 12 and Under team at the Auburn State Championship tournament that they won. Photo from the James Lewis Tennis Scholarship, Inc. via Facebook

First, these folks just won the Auburn State Championship for junior team tennis in the 12 and Under bracket.


Friday, July 12-Sunday, July 14, they played Edge 12, from Pelham Racket Club, three times and won two out of three matches for the championship. Here’s what a match looks like: 1 boys’ single, 1 girls’ single, 1 boys’ double, 1 girls’ double and 1 mixed double.

That’s a lot of tennis, and they did a great job!

2—Next up, the Southern Regional Championship

The next step for the championship team is Southern Regionals.
USTA Junior Team Tennis. Image from USTA Southern Region

Soon, from August 9-August 11, the team will head over to Rome, Georgia for the Southern Championships. They’ll represent Alabama against teams from any of the following eight states:


  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Misssissippi
  • Tennessee
  • Georgia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Arkansas

3—Jamiya Ivory won 3 out of 5 matches at the Southern Closed tournament in Macon, GA for under 14s

Jamiya Ivory won a big tournament, too.
Jamiya Ivory celebrating a win at Vestavia Country Club. Photo from the James Lewis Tennis Scholarship Foundation, Inc. via Facebook

Back in May, Jamiya Ivory was one of 32 girls in the state selected to play in the Alabama Junior State Qualifier in Montgomery. She was one of two selected to play in the 14 and under bracket.

For the first time in the history of the 13-year old program, a junior made it to the top eight in the state qualifier.

In June, she went to Macon, Georgia, to play against other states in the Southern region. While there, coached by her Dad, Nathan Echols, she won 3 out of 5 matches.


“I tip my hat to her,” said Coach Lewis. “Her Dad works out with her and her brother 5-6 times a week, 2-3 hours at a time. That’s what it takes to become a champion.”

4—Coach Rudy Lewis at the George Ward Tennis Center couldn’t be prouder

Coach Rudy Lewis manages the George Ward Tennis Center and coached the winning team.
Coach Rudy Lewis. Photo from Facebook

When Coach Lewis tells stories, his passion and devotion shine through. Like how back in 2006, they had to weedeat the courts before anyone could play on them. Or all the things that happened to make the center into a first-class facility.

Hearing him talk about the program’s late mentor, James Lewis (no relation), is utterly inspiring. Turns out, the James Lewis Tennis Scholarship Foundation, Inc. is named after a man who worked at U.S. Steel and taught tennis to people in Ensley in his spare time. For free. For over 30 years.


Not only that, but if someone needed a racket, he bought it for them. If they needed shoes, same thing. According to Coach Rudy Lewis, who took a lesson with James Lewis in 1988,

He was the type of guy who went beyond tennis to help people out with the problems they had. James Lewis wanted to improve the quality of life for humanity. That’s what we try to be about.

In 1998, the tennis center in Ensley was renamed the James Lewis Tennis Center. The Scholarship Foundation now has two centers: one in Ensley and one at George Ward Park. with a total of 18 hard courts.

5—The Tennis Center has a big program for kids

The Tennis Center has a big program for kids.

The Junior Program is open to anyone 18 and under (you don’t have to be a City of Birmingham resident). Here are the details:


  • Practices: Tuesdays and Thursdays 6-8PM, Saturdays 2-4PM
  • Additional lessons: optional and available for an additional charge
  • Cost: $350 for two months (less than $15 per 2-hour lesson)
  • Season: starts mid-February and goes through mid-December
  • Website: http://www.jltsfi.com/

They have participants from Hoover, Vestavia, and Calera, in addition to Birmingham.

6—Anyone can play at the George Ward Tennis Center

Anyone can play tennis at George Ward via the Kourts app.

You don’t have to be a kid to play at the center, either. If you want to book a court, hop on the Kourts app. It’s $6 per hour, $40 per month, or $250 per year.

7—They also have pickleball at the George Ward Tennis Center!

And, you can play pickleball.
From 1977. Photo from Pickleball via Facebook

Yep, if pickleball’s your thing, you can play it there, too. Book your time on the Kourts app.



If hearing about amazing young people winning tennis championships makes you want to get in on the action, check out the James Lewis Tennis Scholarship Foundation, Inc. Or visit the George Ward Tennis Center to play some tennis or pickleball. You’ll find the center at 331 16th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35205.

Author: Sharron Mendel Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference