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Hokanson expanding Owatonna tennis, pickleball

pickleball, tennis, Owatonna
Owatonna Tennis Association’s (OTA) Matt Hokanson, left, instructs Everett Sennott during a drill at a group lesson last week. Part of Hokanson’s job is to teach group and private lessons. Staff photo by Johnnie Phillips
Johnnie Phillips, Sports Editor

Former Owatonna Tennis Association (OTA) Head Tennis Pro and current Director of Tennis and Pickleball, Matt Hokanson, has his sights set on expanding Owatonna’s tennis and pickleball scene in his first year with the program.

Hokanson – a former Division One tennis player at the University of North Dakota – signed onto work for the OTA in 2021 and has quickly worked his way to a promotion and a two-year contract extension through 2024.

“My favorite part of the position is working with the young kids,” said Hokanson. “I didn’t grow up with a tennis facility in my hometown. We didn’t have a set person to go to for classes or advice. For me to be able to be that person for the kids in our community is awesome. I get to be that person that I didn’t have growing up.”

A native of Bemidji, Hokanson has been a committed tennis player from an early age, and was a national standout in high school.

According to Hokanson, tennis has always been a major part of his life and expanding the game in the community is something that he is extremely passionate about.

“Nowadays a lot of parents and kids are steering away from contact sports. Tennis is a great game for parents to introduce their kids to because it is a fast-paced, explosive game that requires physical fitness and mental strength.”

A normal day for Hokanson involves a host of group and private lessons throughout the day while also supplying services such as re-stringing racquets and keeping up the facilities.

However, Hokanson has some brand new ideas for the future of the West Hills Tennis and Fitness Center – the OTA’s main facility.

Hokanson’s plan is to implement roll-away nets and new pickleball court linings on existing tennis courts to be able to use at the facility for league play.

According to Hokanson, the roll-away nets and new lines will be crucial for the club because it will not make each individual court exclusively a tennis or pickleball court, and will allow for visitors to play either game at their leisure.

While tennis has been growing consistently in Owatonna for many years, pickleball has grown rapidly in previous years.

Hokanson has kept his eye on the trend and is in the works of earning his pickleball certification while also planning to establish a pickleball league through the OTA with hopes of launching in September.

The OTA will offer members a seamless experience as the association adds pickleball into the mix by ensuring members will be able to compete in tennis and pickleball for the same price under one membership.

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