It is common for players competing in the Public Courts Tennis Tournament to have friends and relatives watch.
For Alyssa Hackworth-Irvin, however, one of her main supporters this week is a little more out of the ordinary.
That’s because Bruce Irvin, a former West Virginia University standout and current player in the National Football League with the super bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, is in Charleston to root on his new wife, who married the former WVU star in May.
After graduating from WVU after the 2011 season, Irvin was a first-round pick (No. 15 overall) by the Seahawks in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Irvin was on hand to see his wife, with longtime tennis doubles partner Erica White, win their semifinal match on Tuesday in the women’s open doubles division to advance to Saturday’s championship.
Hackworth-Irvin, a former George Washington and University of Charleston tennis standout, was happy to have her husband and son Brayden, who recently turned 1, on hand for the first time.
“Bruce had never seen me play,” Hackworth-Irvin said. “It was good. It is different. It’s not quite to the caliber of his sport but it is nice to have his support.”
Irvin, meanwhile, was glad to switch roles and support his wife in her athletic endeavors instead of the other way around.
“I always heard she was good but I’ve never seen her play tennis,” Irvin said. “It’s not very often I get to see her at her highest level. It is a good experience to see her on the court and see what she can do.
“I am enjoying it and taking it all in. I’m trying to see if she fits the Irvin last name. We are athletes. The way our son is running around, I’m thinking I would rather be playing right now.”
The Irvins live in Renton, Wash., rarely being able to return to the Mountain State.
“The state loves Bruce and he loves West Virginia,” Hackworth-Irvin said. “He calls this his home. We only get to visit in the offseason. I miss the people. Everyone here is so friendly.”
Irvin, despite being a Georgia native, said he holds the state of West Virginia in the highest regard.
“To me, I consider this as my home,” he said. “Not many people get to go back to their state and college and be as loved as people love me and I love them.
“It’s a great feeling. I play for my family, team, and people here. The greatest decision I ever made was to attend West Virginia University.”
While Irvin had a standout career with the Mountaineers and is enjoying his time in the NFL, his newfound wife has had a good run of her own in tennis.
The Patriots won two team state championships and Hackworth-Irvin combined with White to win three titles at the No. 1 doubles position (2005-2008).
As a freshman at UC, Hackworth-Irvin was an all-conference player with a Golden Eagle team that won the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season and tournament title.
“They were awesome moments,” Hackworth-Irvin said. “I love tennis and it was so great to play here at GW and UC. “I love playing doubles. It is so much fun.”
Hackworth-Irvin is no stranger to great success in the Public Courts, having won several titles.
In 2007, Hackworth-Irvin teamed with Alex Bush to win the women’s open doubles title. She followed that with back-to-back championships in the same division, and in 2008, winning alongside JoMarie Bohn.
She earned a Public Courts threepeat, teaming with White in 2009 to once again win the women’s open doubles championship with her third different partner.
“I think this tournament is the most fun, ever,” Hackworth-Irvin said. “This year I have the baby. It is cool because I hope to continue to play, and hopefully he will grow up around it like I did.”
After taking a couple years off, the former GW star is getting back on the courts.
“I didn’t play last year because he (Brayden) was a newborn, and I didn’t play the year before because I didn’t live here,” she said. “Bruce and I was in town and the public courts just happened to be this week so I figured ‘why not.’”
Hackworth-Irvin indicated she couldn’t have a made her return with a much better partner in White as the two are looking to once again regain their previous dominance.
“I want to win,” Hackworth-Irvin said. “I can’t lose in front of (Irvin). We can’t have just one champion. It would be so fun.
“I would put the trophy in Brayden’s room. I feel like it is always us in the finals. I think it will be fun to be on the court with them again.”
Hackworth-Irvin has a special relationship with White.
“We are the dream team,” Hackworth-Irvin said. “I feel like since when are so good on the court together, we like conquer life together. She was there when Brayden was born. She was my maid of honor. We are such good friends.”
Hackworth-Irvin hopes to one day even get her husband Bruce, on the court, and play together in the Public Courts.
“I tried to get him to play husband-wife, but he couldn’t because of his hip surgery,” Hackworth-Irvin said. “Bruce has grown to love tennis. He loves the Public Courts.”
Hackworth-Irvin hopes their son Brayden is as good an athlete as he grows older, but said the plan is for it not to involve football like Bruce.
“Bruce tries to take all of Brayden’s athleticism on his side but there’s some on my side, too,” she said. “We are sticking with baseball and tennis.
“Bruce says no football for him due to too much pain on his body. We want him to be a pitcher or center fielder.”