Two past presidents were inducted into the USTA Florida Tennis Hall of Fame, and volunteers across the state were recognized when the United States Tennis Association-Florida Section presented its year-end awards at the 2014 USTA Florida Annual Meeting & Volunteer Celebration on Nov. 22-23.
The 65th edition of the USTA Florida Section awards were held at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando. The weekend celebrating Florida tennis volunteers and community activists also included educational sessions, a tennis mixer, the Starry, Starry Night Awards Dinner & Dancing, and the Sunday Breakfast with the Stars awards.
The weekend also saw the passing of the gavel from Past President Bob Pfaender (2013-14) to incoming President Nancy Horowitz (2015-16).
Here are the award winners from the 65th USTA Florida Annual Meeting & Volunteer Celebration:
HALL OF FAME AWARD — Donn Davis of Punta Gorda
His song slogan is “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey
You may be thinking, “Didn’t we just award this guy?” if you were present for Donn’s Male Merit Award a few years back, but today we’re awarding the Florida Section’s highest honor for 14 years of unending service and dedication.
Culminating in his presidency of the USTA Florida Section in 2009-10, Donn left the office after achieving goals of bringing the USPTA, PTR and USTA Florida closer together, and bringing teaching pros on board with the new 10 and Under Tennis format being introduced. He has served from president to council and committee member, representing the Florida Section on USTA National committees, and has been recognized within the tennis industry. In 2010 he received the USPTA Florida Service Award for his leadership and vision in promoting tennis.
Since stepping down as president he has stayed involved with the Florida Section, serving for a period as director of the USTA Florida Section Foundation, and remaining active with local tennis organizations.
As he said in 2011, “When I attended my first USTA Florida Annual Meeting and met Doug Booth, it was from that meeting that I was convinced I had to help this organization. And as Paul Harvey would say, that’s ‘the rest of the story.'”
HALL OF FAME AWARD — Celia Rehm of Jacksonville
Her theme song is “If We Hold On Together” by Diana Ross
Jacksonville native Celia Rehm is a former USTA Florida president, the current Bylaws & Governance Committee Chair, a USTA Florida Section Foundation Board Member — and she also almost-single-handedly saved high school tennis and reinstated USTA League play in the city of Jacksonville.
Locally Celia co-founded Jacksonville’s first CTA, the First Coast Tennis Foundation, and has since founded a second youth-focused CTA, the Jax Youth Tennis Association in partnership with the City of Jacksonville to deliver 10 and Under Tennis programming.
From the early 1990s when she first served as the chair of the then-District Community Development Committee as a district director, she is now approaching 25 years as a USTA Florida volunteer. Her service has included leading local, state and USTA national committee efforts.
Last year Celia was presented with the national Eve Kraft Community Service Award, one of the USTA’s highest honors. Part of that service was leading the effort to raise $40,000 to save the high school tennis program in Jacksonville that had been targeted for budget cuts – exemplifying the effort that no local, state or national effort has been beyond Celia’s ability to keep people playing tennis.
MERIT AWARD — Sherry Beckman of Palm Beach Gardens
Her theme song is “Sherry”
It takes a special individual to retire as a USTA Florida staff person and then throw themselves wholeheartedly into tennis volunteering, but that exemplifies the love Sherry has for the game and the people who play it.
From 1997-2007 she served as director of marketing, membership and communications for the Florida Section after eight years serving the USTA in the Missouri Valley Section and the National USTA Office. Since 2007 her volunteer services have included chair of the national Membership Services Committee, the USTA Florida Volunteer Council, the Masters Tennis Task Force, a mentor in the Volunteer Development Program, and at the local level assisting with sectional and national junior tournaments in the Palm Beaches area.
From 2009-2010 Sherry served as the first Executive Director of the USTA Florida Section Foundation.
An engine of the section Volunteer Committee, she says her two most valued contributions during her tenure have been assisting in the development of a new system for recruitment, and a system for assigning volunteer liaisons to other committees. A committed player, she has also served as a local mixed coordinator and has captained a number of teams.
As for her theme song “Sherry,” she says she chooses it because she is always willing to “come out” and play tennis.
MEMBER ORGANIZATION OF THE YEAR — City of Boca Raton (Accepting, Jim Tierney)
Their slogan is the song “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About”
Giving back, community involvement, and financial return to the local community are the three tent poles for the City of Boca Raton’s tennis operation that canvasses three public tennis centers: Boca Raton Tennis, Patch Reef, and the Swim & Racquet centers. If you’re wondering which is the star player of the team, keep in mind that all three are past recipients of the USTA’s Outstanding Facility of the Year Award.
The city giving back has included providing courts and free weekly clinics for special-needs groups, and assisting charitable groups and schools. The city’s community involvement is highlighted by staff and members arranging and supporting more than 15 charitable collections and donations throughout the year, and a financial impact to the community of almost $300,000 in local business generated by the USTA National Intersectional Team Event alone.
The city runs the full gamut of USTA Florida program options, with prestigious adult, junior, pro, wheelchair, and school events too numerous to list.
Their song slogan, “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About,” describes the attitude of their organization – providing a special experience with outstanding customer service, programming, and upgraded facilities that visitors will be talking about.
VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD — Scott Colebourne of Fernandina Beach
His slogan is “Rock Solid”
Late last year, USTA Florida put together a committee to address the initial tournament experiences of junior players, and all junior players competing in the correct events for their abilities. What evolved into the USTA Florida Earned Advancement Pathway, and the committee behind it, has been guided by teaching pros such as Scott Colebourne, the director of tennis at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation.
Scott says, “Tennis is facing strong competition for family’s recreation time, while that recreation time available is also shrinking. To compete, junior tournament tennis needs to make some changes.” Even ahead of the USTA’s roll-out of Youth Tennis, with kid-sized racquets, balls and court sizes, the New Zealand native was teaching with lower-compression balls and age-adjusted racquets when he began coaching in 2001.
His insights into junior development and tournament progression are making a difference as the USTA Florida Section strives to make junior competitive tennis a seamless progression from beginner to advanced play.
USTA Florida’s Andy McFarland says, “What I admire and respect about Scott the most is that he ‘gets it.’ He gets how we have to offer and provide more quality play and competition opportunities for kids, not just at his facility, but all over Florida and the U.S. He wants to make a difference for all kinds of tennis players everywhere. He’s a special breed of tennis teacher that sees a bigger picture.”
OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR — Katherine Barnard of Deland
Her theme song is Michael Buble’s version of “Feeling Good”
Not many individuals are awarded for going through a period of individual growth, but that is the story according to referee and official Katherine Barnard.
While she has worked her regular college and junior state tennis events this year, she says the new youth Team Tennis Challenge series of events has caused her to extend herself beyond her job description. Since many players, parents, and coaches are newer to the sport at Team Tennis Challenges, she has found herself taking the initiative to meet and establish a rapport with parents and children in her travels throughout the state.
She says, “At this grassroots level, I am truly able to be that ‘Friend at Court’ who assists them in learning rules, etiquette, proper conduct, sportsmanship, and fellowship. I genuinely want them to love and enjoy tennis as much as I have my entire life.”
Katherine was inspired to become an official while at a tournament at Rollins College by legendary official Rollie Shea, who encouraged her to join their ranks. Since then it has been the players in the USTA Florida Section that has benefited from Katherine’s guiding hand.
AL MILLS MEMORIAL ADULT TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR — Rosemary Beach Adult Designated, Rosemary Beach (Accepting, Michael Clark)
There must be something about how they run tournaments up north, because every year it seems this award ends up in the Florida Panhandle.
The 2014 Rosemary Beach Adult Designated was marked by some of the area’s top amenities, competitive play, and a weekend filled with fun and seeing old friends, featuring 123 players on its eight Har-Tru courts.
Tournament Director Michael Clark, assisted by Head Professional, Byron Townsend, oversee a complete tournament experience for participants, with the maintenance staff working hard to keep the courts in immaculate condition over the four days. In addition to adult beverages and soft drinks throughout the weekend, players also receive a dry-fit t-shirt, a Friday evening dinner by Carrabas, and a Saturday luncheon by Summer Kitchen Cafe among other amenities.
Prize money is awarded to the singles winners in all divisions, while all draws feature first-round consolation or round robin. For those looking to make a weekend of it, the tournament works with the Rosemary Beach Cottage Rental Company to provide great rates.
This year nearly 40 percent of the entry fees, or nearly $3,000, was donated to the local chapter of The American Cancer Society, continuing the tournament tradition of giving back to the local community.
FEMALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR — Susan Boyer of Coral Springs
Slogan “Ya Gotta Wanna”
Ranked No. 1 in her age group in Florida and Top 5 nationally for most of the last 20 years, Susan this year has again claimed the No. 1 Florida ranking in the Women’s 50s singles, and a No. 3 national ranking in the 50s.
This year she placed 3rd at the ITF World Individual Championships, and won titles at two Category II or Super Category II national events. Perhaps more impressively she has stood up for her personal values that tournament play, while competitive, should above all be fun.
While difficult, she took part in the long grievance process regarding a player no one wanted to stand up to who was ruining tournament experiences for many players. In the process she receiving thanks from fellow tournament players across the country.
A junior player since the age of 10, Susan calls participating in USTA tournaments “one of the best things in my life” — from her selection as a junior to represent USTA Florida at the National Sports Festival in Colorado Springs, to as an adult competing for Florida on Intersectional senior teams and U.S. international cup teams. As her favorite t-shirt slogan says, to achieve it “Ya Gotta Wanna.”
WHEELCHAIR PLAYER OF THE YEAR — David Mayo of Pensacola
Slogan: “Bitter or Better…Our Choice!”
As a player and tournament director of the Pensacola Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships, some unhappy players have undoubtedly questioned David’s draws over the years, but no one can question David’s results — especially this year after he fought to the “B” division title at the international wheelchair event.
As of this fall, David was ranked No. 3 in Florida and No. 15 nationally, and his efforts throughout 2014 have resulted in his second Wheelchair Player of the Year honor, coming 10 years after his first in 2004.
Also named the 2005 Pensacola Sportsman of the Year, and in 2010 receiving the Service to Mankind Award presented by the Sertoma Club, David has not only excelled on court, but off the court has grown the Pensacola Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships into the third-largest wheelchair tournament in the country, regularly attracting players from more than 18 nations.
He says,” Life throws adversity and hardships at us all,” regarding his slogan, “Bitter or Better…our Choice!” — and he adds, “but how we respond makes the difference.”
USTA LEAGUE TENNIS SERVICE AWARD — Denean Sykes of Tallahassee
Her favorite quote is, “Everything will be alright in the end. So if it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.”
If you’re looking to join a USTA League team in Tallahassee, and expecting to advance to sectionals or even nationals, you may want to give Denean your number after the award ceremony.
This year six of the seven teams she captained advanced to sectionals. That makes 29 teams advancing to sectionals out of 37 she has captained over the past six years.
Besides being an outstanding advocate for USTA Leagues, she goes out of her way to assist local league coordinators, and in her own words, “try to set a good example in our tennis community with regard to competition, leadership, sportsmanship, encouragement and achievement.” Her player recruitment also results in new league captains, as she mentors players into the role of putting together, organizing and running teams.
“Mama Denean,” as her teammates call her, volunteers her own time as a captain, and encourages others to volunteer in the local tennis community. A volunteer this year at the Tallahassee Challenger, she recruited, scheduled and organized the ball “babes and dudes” as she called them, introducing more members of the tennis community into volunteering.
BOBBY CURTIS JUNIOR TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR — Midtown Athletic Club, Weston (Accepting, Luis Brest)
His slogan is “Iron Man”
Midtown Athletic Club gets a lot of practice in running tournaments.
Each year they host approximately 20 tournaments, averaging around 950 juniors, 300 adults and 300 Futures-level players through the facility competing at all levels of events, from ROGY to Junior Team Tennis to junior competitive, up to adult and USTA Pro Circuit stops.
Midtown tournament participants receive a guest pass that allows them to feel at home as a member of the club — accessing a physical trainer, gym facilities, racquet stringing, restaurant, pro shop, spa and more.
In addition to the hospitality, players enjoy the spacious 25-court layout, and hotel accommodations that allow them to walk to the club and take advantage of the facilities, even when they are not playing matches.
In regard to his song choice “Iron Man,” Luis who is both a PTR Coach of the Year in Argentina and Florida, says he will not stop at anything to allow as many players to participate, keeping an eye on each participant to assure they have a great time and a great experience.
JUNIOR COMPETITIVE COACH OF THE YEAR — Kevin Chow of Miami
Song: Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up”
The Director of Tennis at the Tamiami Tennis Center and J.D. Redd Park, Kevin Chow takes time out from coaching some of the top juniors in Florida to contribute to junior tennis in a number of other ways.
As part of the USTA Florida Coaches Commission, he is playing a part in reshaping the Florida junior tennis landscape to provide a better experience for junior players. As a part of the Tenis para Todos initiative, or Tennis for Everyone, he promotes tennis in the Hispanic community in the city of Homestead at J.D. Redd Park.
Also on his radar annually are partnering with Special Olympics of Florida, and keeping kids active and involved with team experiences besides tournament play with Junior Team Tennis at his facilities.
The coach of the championship Florida Zonal 12-and-under team in 2013, Chow’s cadre of Top 25-ranked junior players includes Kelsey Laurente, who plays the top singles position for the University of Miami.
In regard to his song title, he says, “‘Get Up Stand Up’ teaches you to never give up and stand up to adversity. Never back down from challenges in life.”
ALBERT CARRINGTON BALINK AWARD (JUNIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR) — Katerina Stewart of Coral Gables
Her Song theme is Kanye West’s “Stronger”
This year Katerina rose to national prominence by reaching the semifinals of the US Open junior girls’ event, on the heels of beating out some of the world’s top professional players winning three USTA Pro Circuit events, all at the age of 17.
In 2014 she won the prestigious Easter Bowl, and won her fourth career age division title at the USTA Florida Bobby Curtis Junior State Championships. She became the first player in 27 years to win four titles at the event.
Ranked No. 1 in Florida and No. 11 in the nation, her junior ranking suffered due to her success at pro events, which earned her a ranking of No. 543 on the WTA tour.
The first Floridian since fellow Hispanic Mary Joe Fernandez to win the Junior Orange Bowl, Katerina says representing and supporting the junior development of Hispanics in Florida remains one of her passions.
A former Sportsmanship Award winner, Katerina says she balances a desire to best represent the USTA Florida Section on and off the court with the message of her theme song “Stronger” — not letting her failures bring her down, but using them to fuel her hunger to win.
USTA 10 AND UNDER TENNIS TEACHING AWARD — Mary McCoy of Daytona Beach
Her theme song is “I’m Every Woman”
The mind is a terrible thing to waste, and for school teacher Mary McCoy, for that matter so are abandoned tennis courts.
All three of Mary’s children had played tennis growing up in a program run by a local Daytona volunteer. When that volunteer retired, the courts went empty day after day. That’s when Mary thought, “So much was given to my children, it’s time for me to give back.”
The result, the Derbyshire Community Tennis Program, now offers 10 and Under Tennis and other programming to young children, providing a safe haven to inner-city youth in Daytona. Partnering with other local volunteers and the City of Daytona Beach Leisure Services Department, Mary says the program in the challenged area came together through perseverance and luck, not to mention some amazing volunteers. Children who may not otherwise have an opportunity to be introduced to the sport receive free tennis lessons twice a week in six-week sessions.
Mary says the song, “I’m Every Woman,” depicts the very essence of who she is — assisting with whatever you need from being an educator, girls’ varsity tennis coach, wife, mother, grandmother and community volunteer.
USTA SCHOOL TENNIS VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR — Kathryn Acierno of Flagler Beach
Her slogan is “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”
You have to really love tennis, and really have a vision for after-school programming, to leave an eight-year elementary school teaching position to start a grassroots community after-school tennis program, but that’s what Kathryn did last year.
One year later, tennis in the Flagler Beach area has gone from virtually no programming to waiting lists for area tennis programs. She says, “There is such a need for convenient, fun and affordable on-campus, after-school programs, and I knew that tennis would be a big hit.”
Now after starting or boosting programs at multiple schools and tennis clubs, she serves as an “As-Needed Instructor” for Flagler schools and its after-school enrichment programs. From designing and implementing Play Days to coaching kids in Team Tennis Challenges, she keeps families informed about play opportunities through Kids’ Tennis Clubs at schools.
USTA Florida’s area Tennis Program Coordinator Molly Zimmer says, “Kathryn is a pioneer in bringing an after-school tennis program to schools in Flagler County.”
Through her slogan, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” Kathryn saw the opportunity to make tennis a big part of sports in Flagler schools.
TEAM TENNIS VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR — Kara Borromeo of Miami
Her song slogan is “Happy” by Pharrell
Whether it’s captaining local Junior Team Tennis squads, bringing travelling teams to regional Team Tennis Challenges or going to JTT nationals, Kara Borromeo is a dynamo in getting kids active in team tennis in the Miami area.
She says, “If it were not for Junior Team Tennis events, these kids would probably never have the opportunity to experience tennis competition and the camaraderie of being on a team. They have so much fun traveling to events.”
The director of tennis at Coral Reef Park in Palmetto Bay has volunteered as a JTT captain and organizer over the past five years, and is typically involved with seven or more teams each season.
In addition Kara also organized volunteer opportunities for high school students to assist as 10 and Under Tennis court monitors, and assisted staff at the inaugural Miami Tennis Cup featuring 10 and Under Tennis during the 2014 Sony Open.
In regard to her song choice, she says she is “happy” to be teaching and volunteering her time as a professional tennis instructor, and especially happy working with kids with special needs.
USTA FLORIDA TENNIS ON CAMPUS AWARD — Adam Decker of Gainesville
His song slogan is “Someday”
Improving the already-dominant University of Florida club tennis is no easy feat, yet Adam’s years on the Gainesville campus have been a boon to the club program that has thrived under his presidency and leadership.
Under his stewardship the club doubled its number of active members, and laid the groundwork for future success by mentoring younger club participants for leadership positions. Among his contributions were also expanding club tournaments, outreach, social activities and fundraising, and even mentoring leaders at other school TOC programs.
His more than 300 hours of community service has included organizing the UF Club Tennis Alumni Week; an annual recreational trip to the Miami Open pro event for club members; and keeping the group active in giving back to the Gainesville community. On the court, his legacy is part of the UF club team winning the Florida ‘Tennis on Campus’ Championships in five of the last six years, and finishing runner-up at TOC Nationals the last two years.
In regard to his slogan song, “Someday,” he says, “This is a song that was always on our ‘pump-up CD’ for tournaments. I think that it describes me in the sense that with hard work and dedication, I will someday achieve my goals.”
COMMUNITY TENNIS ASSOCIATION VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR — Ebony Evans-Molock of Ocala
Her song theme is “Takin’ Care of Business”
Like many USTA Florida volunteers, Ebony’s story begins with inspiration from another mentor in the tennis community. Watching her daughter thrive in a 10 and Under Tennis program at the Jonesville Tennis Center in Gainesville under Bobbie Mehan, Ebony came back to her home in Ocala intent on growing the city’s own program for those youth starting out in tennis.
As the current youth tennis coordinator at the Fort King Tennis Center in Ocala, she has overseen grassroots programs that have blossomed to include USTA Florida programming such as ROGY, Team Tennis Challenges, Free Play Days and other community tennis events.
As a media Facebook volunteer for the City of Ocala, she also maintains a tennis presence on social media, using the medium to spread the word of programming and play opportunities.
Her community outreach tennis event, “World Tennis Day,” collects hundreds of pounds of non-perishable items and personal hygiene products for the needy.
Up early each day as a homeschool mom, Ebony says her song choice reflects her “Takin’ Care of Business” and workin’ overtime to promote junior tennis for the masses in Ocala.