Rita Dotson remains a cornerstone of growing and maintaining tennis populations in the Pensacola area, and 2018 has not slowed her down one bit.
The 18-year Florida tennis volunteer has had a big year, between hosting red, orange, and green ball tennis days for kids at local community centers; captaining Junior Team Tennis squads; hosting 10-and-under orange- and green-ball regional qualifiers; school visits promoting the Net Generation youth brand; and representing tennis at Pensacola sports’ 5210 Northwest Florida Day of Play for kids, among many other activities.
Also in 2018 she has served as a year-round Special Olympics tennis coach in Escambia County, and a local Net Generation trainer and facilitator.
“My favorite is the Special Olympics Summer Games,” she says. “These super athletes proved that it’s not about what you cannot do, but what you can do! This was my first year, and I saw so many displays of good sportsmanship it’s bringing tears to my eyes just thinking about it!”
She also maintains the local non-profit she founded, Tennis-4-Everyone, which provides free lessons to area youth at community center summer camps, and provides homework assistance and tutoring to the children attending the Fricker Center after-school program. During the school year Tennis-4-Everyone also provides free tennis instruction to a number of other area community centers.
#NetGeneration at Gull Point Community Center! Photos courtesy Maggie Lochas
“Tennis-4-Everyone is having a typical, busy year so far,” she says. “We are currently in the early planning stages of building four permanent 36-foot courts and one 78-foot court with blended lines for 60-foot court play at Oakcrest Elementary and the Ebonwood Community Center. We’ve also been asked to provide tennis for adaptive P.E. classes at three middle schools.”
It was roughly this time last year that Dotson was feted by USTA Florida and the local Pensacola tennis community, receiving the Champion of Tennis award for her support of youth tennis in the area.
“Y’all know Rita better than I do, but Rita’s attitude in our community is phenomenal,” Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward said at the award presentation during the Pensacola Futures pro event. “Wherever I see you, Rita, you’re smiling, and touching someone’s life — and you’re selfless. Thank you for your selfless service.”
The director of junior tennis at the Roger Scott Tennis Center, she goes out of her way to give juniors an avenue into competitive beginner tournament play. She well remembers the gym teacher that first put a racquet into her hand in the 9th grade, and passes that chance on to students of all ages. “I enjoy watching adults and kids learn to love the sport,” she says.
USTA Florida congratulates and thanks Rita Dotson as the October Florida Tennis Volunteer of the month for giving to tennis at every level in the Pensacola area.
Family Members: “Husband Ed, sons Brett and Jayce, and daughter Ali.”
Favorite Movie: Shawshank Redemption
Favorite Food: Chicken Adobo
Favorite Travel: Hawaii
Favorite Shot: “Buggy-whip forehand”
My earliest tennis memory was…”playing tennis for the first time as a freshman in high school P.E. class.”
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be…”Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King, and Pete Sampras.”
When I am not playing tennis I am…”spending time with my large extended family and collecting shells on beautiful Pensacola Beach.”
My best tennis memory is…”going on a cruise to Cozumel with my ladies’ league team as part of our 10-year anniversary celebration.”