The 66th edition of the USTA Florida (United States Tennis Association-Florida Section) Annual Awards & Volunteer Celebration Weekend honored Florida’s top tennis volunteers on Nov. 21-22, 2015, at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando, Fla.
The weekend also included educational sessions, an XGLOsive black light tennis mixer, the Ironman Tennis Challenge, the Starry Night Awards Dinner & Dancing, and the Sunday Breakfast with the Stars awards among other activities for the more than 200 tennis volunteers in attendance.
“I want to thank you for making tennis possible for this community,” said Gloria Rosas through an interpreter. The USTA Florida Outstanding Diversity Achievement Award winner was honored for bringing tennis to the socio-economically-challenged, predominately-Hispanic community of Fellsmere, Fla., and growing the program after applying for a grant from the USTA Florida Foundation. “Tennis has provided a great many opportunities for children and parents in the community.”
Here are the award winners from the 66th USTA Florida Annual Meeting & Volunteer Celebration:
USTA Florida Member Organization of the Year
Roger Scott Tennis Center in Pensacola
Accepting ~ Bruce Caton
Their slogan is “The Right Stuff”
Raising more than $100,000 each year through tennis charity events for organizations throughout the city, the Roger Scott Tennis Center is committed to not only growing tennis, but raising up to the Pensacola community.
Besides the full slate of USTA league and junior program and tournament offerings, Roger Scott hosts numerous events that benefit breast cancer support, autism, inner-city schools, foster children, and developmentally-delayed children and adults in the community. Their community outreach program, Tennis-4-Everyone, provides tennis instruction and academic tutoring throughout the school year, and at summer camps in inner-city communities, serving the area’s under-served youth.
School tennis is strongly supported as local high school teams benefit from court time for practice and matches, in addition to hosting district and regional tournaments, and in the off-season school training camps. League-wise, Roger Scott has been the home to more than 100 USTA League teams over the last year, and all 18 hard courts at the facility feature blended lines for junior play.
A recipient of this award in 2007, Roger Scott also received the Tennis Industry Association National Municipal Tennis Facility of the Year award in 2011 for its excellence in service to the tennis community.
USTA Florida Volunteer of the Year Award
Terry Thrash of Pensacola
His song slogan is “Dream On” by Aerosmith
Up and above his position as a USTA Florida local league contractor, Terry Thrash has given of his time, networking, marketing and communication skills to showcase volunteering for the tennis community of Pensacola. The current president of the Greater Pensacola Tennis Association, he is also the Escambia County community representation and a USPTA-certified volunteer on-court instructor at 10 and Under Tennis events, working primarily with children from low-income families.
As a community representative he maintains a local database and keeps players up to date with play opportunities; upcoming events; tennis, fitness and nutrition tips; news on the professional side of tennis — anything, he says, “to keep their interest in tennis and a healthy lifestyle.”
This May he took the lead on a local USTA Florida Team-Up event to get more first-time players or returning players into the game and into the lower levels of USTA League play. He says he especially enjoys volunteering on the USTA Florida League Committee. He says, “My work as a member of the leagues committee helps to maintain a fair and competitive league structure throughout the Florida Section — and that is a tough job, sometimes.”
Of his theme song “Dream On” he says, “A person must have dreams and goals to push them to achieve great things in life. Successful people always have goals, goals that are constantly changing, and pushing one to new heights.”
The Tim Pleasant Family of Daytona Beach
His song slogan is “Celebrate Me Home” by Ruben Studdard
The Pleasants are not Family of the Year because of sheer numbers — and the fact they can almost field an entire softball team. Parents Tim and Brenda, and 10-year-old Lilly, 9-year-old Timothy, 4-year-olds Charlie and Frances, and 1-year-olds Josephine and Rosemary, excel in various coaching, organizing, leading, and playing the game — 1-year-olds Josephine and Rosemary as recently as June when they hit their first foam balls over the net.
Tim, the head men’s and women’s tennis coach at Bethune-Cookman University, extends his coaching prowess to USTA Early Development Camps, Junior Team Tennis, and Play Days in Volusia County, and has been a vocal advocate for the 10 and Under Tennis format and the new 10 and Under Youth Tennis Tournament Pathway. Brenda is certified in USTA recreational tennis, 10 and Under Tennis and USTA High Performance Workshops for 10 and Under tennis, and passes that expertise on to her children. Lilly this year won the Florida state championship in the 10-and-under division, and Timothy won the Florida Section “Little Mo” in the 9-and-under division, among their other tournament accomplishments. Their children have come up strictly playing the 10 and Under Tennis format, which they attribute to their well-rounded games and success.
Of his theme song, Tim says, “We celebrate every day that we have together. We homeschool together, we play tennis together, we cry together and we laugh together. And by participating in USTA Florida programming, a pathway has been created for my family’s future.”
USTA Florida Hall of Fame Award (Administrative)
Maria Cercone of Seminole
Her song slogan is “Fireworks” by Katie Perry
Maria’s induction into the USTA Florida Hall of Fame for her volunteer service caps a lifetime of making competitive and recreational tennis a better experience for all. Growing up as a junior player in the Florida Section, she received the Jimmy Gant Memorial junior award in 1973, and was named the Florida Junior Coach of the Year in 1995 and in 2001.
In 1995 she received the section’s Female Merit Award, and in 2002 Maria and the Cercones were named the USTA Florida Section Family of the Year. For almost 25 years Maria has served the Florida Section on the Junior Competitive Committee, representing the Florida Section on the national Player Development Committee and National Youth Competition and Training Committee, chairing the Florida Section Diversity Committee, Collegiate Committee, serving on the Florida Nominating Committee, serving as the Florida Section’s vice president from 2000-2004, and more.
She says, “When I was asked to serve on the Junior Competitive Committees for the first time, I thought that was such an honor. It all started from that initial position.”
Maria like her self-described theme song “Fireworks” exploded onto the Florida tennis volunteer scene in 1992. “Volunteering,” she says, “has given me an insight of how wonderful it is to give back to something that you hold so dear and close to your heart. Being a volunteer for Florida tennis is not just about the sport, it is about everything else around the sport.”
Dave Brown of Port Orange
His song slogan is “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin
The 1993 Time magazine cover story, “Is Tennis Dying?” was a shake-up for the tennis industry, and personally for Dave, who had recently relocated to Florida to run two public tennis centers in Broward County. From that year on, in South Florida then in the Daytona Beach area, he has become a steward for the sport of tennis, seeking to grow the sport at all age levels and in all aspects.
His previous recognitions include USTA Florida Family of the Year in 2011, the USTA/USPTA Florida Service Award in 2002, five times the USPTA Daytona District Pro of the Year, and he was named a USPTA Master Professional in 1992. From tournament director to heading CTAs to serving USTA and USPTA organizations, if you can think of a position within the Florida tennis community, paid or volunteer, Dave has likely done it.
Family and tennis are inseparable for Dave, who played throughout juniors and college, and continues to compete in adult tournaments and national father-son events with his son Aaron. His wife Ann, his son and his daughter-in-law Michelle all work in the tennis industry.
The USTA life member says, “Bringing new and returning players to try, learn, and play tennis continues to be my mission here in Central Florida through the new junior tennis pathway, our local adult leagues, and the new Master’s Tennis program.”
Susan Allshouse of Boynton Beach
Her slogan is “It doesn’t matter what others are doing.
It matters what YOU are doing.”
You may remember Susan from last year on this stage when she received the USPTA Florida/USTA Florida Division Service Award — or from her 2012 Florida CTA Volunteer of the Year Award, or the same award in 2006, or the 2004 Florida School Volunteer of the Year Award. Susan, as you can tell, receives a lot of awards.
From the most time-intensive efforts such as serving on the USTA Florida Board and various committees to working with Special Olympics Athletes on court, nothing is beneath her when it comes to growing the game. In addition to her board and service on four committees, this year alone she serves as the team leader on the USTA National Schools Project Team, and has been re-appointed as a member of the USTA Workshop Faculty, as a USTA National 10 & Under Specialist, a USTA Florida Schools Specialist, as a USTA Florida Entry Level Tournament Director, and to the USTA Florida Foundation Grant Committee. For more than 10 years, Susan has taken on such a yearly workload, and more.
She says, “I immediately ‘Got on the Bus’ with my first experience volunteering in 2003 and seeing the difference we could make. After that, it’s been, ‘What can I do to help?'”
She adds, “My involvement has grown from a volunteer for local school programs to a position of leadership within my region, the section and the country. As part of a team of very special players I have learned that there is much more than winning or losing — the point is to keep playing.”
Sherry Wheelock of Clermont
Her slogan is the Special Olympics athlete’s oath,
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Significant growth is a challenge for any long-standing program or organization — much less doubling participation. Special Olympics Florida President & CEO Sherry Wheelock has accomplished this feat over the last 1-1/2 years in Florida. Following an agreement between Special Olympics Florida, the USTA Florida Foundation and the USTA Florida Section, Sherry has been instrumental in substantially increasing the number of athletes with intellectual disabilities who play tennis across the state.
“For about three years,” she says, “Special Olympics Florida has worked with USTA Florida leadership and volunteers to host trainings and workshops, as well as create an adaptive sport curriculum that challenges athletes at every age and skill level. There are now a record number of Special Olympics Florida athletes playing tennis, and it was only possible through the generosity of USTA Florida which provided equipment as well as volunteer coaches.”
This partnership has enhanced the quality of training and competitive experiences while allowing athletes to demonstrate their talent, improve their health, and build confidence both on and off the court.
The reciprocal benefits of the partnership brokered by Sherry are extensive. They have helped break down stereotypes about the abilities of athletes with intellectual disabilities, while providing an inclusive platform where entire families can now play together. In her role as president & CEO, Sherry has also grown annual charitable gifts from eight to $12 million, as a result increasing the number of athletes served from 18,000 to 29,000 statewide.
USTA Florida Official of the Year
Matt Fox of St. Petersburg
His slogan is “Do what you love, love what you do!”
From working last year’s US Open to this year at Wimbledon and the French Open, to ATP events in Houston and Miami, Challenger-level, collegiate and even junior events in the St. Pete/Tampa area, Matt Fox is all over the globe.
He knows the game intimately as player, ranking No. 1 in Florida in NTRP 4.0 and 4.5 singles, and he knows pressure as the first-ever umpire to have a Hawkeye Challenge upon one of his calls in 2006 at what is now the Miami Open.
The only umpire from Florida selected nationally for a committee to create and produce a training curriculum for new umpires, a driver for Matt is helping to develop new young umpires to continue to improve the umpire standard in the USTA. He expresses gratitude for his 18 years as an umpire, and getting a start and continued support from industry veterans such as Sue Delong, Roger White, Cathy Hancock and the late Terry Logan.
Matt says, “During my umpiring career, I have stayed active and involved from the top level of the game to the grassroots level. I continue to enjoy not only working professional events nationally and overseas, but also enjoy working collegiate events in Florida and local junior tournaments.”
USTA Florida Al Mills Memorial Adult Tournament of the Year
Gulf Harbour Yacht & Country Club, Ft. Myers, 10-Point Tiebreak Tournament
Accepting ~ Mike Curran
His song is “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw
Mike’s song could have been “The Times They Are a Changin'” for his willingness to experiment with a new tournament format this year, and for the willingness it was embraced within the Ft. Myers community.
10-Point Tiebreak Tournaments are one-day events, and after seeing the event at another club, Mike held a doubles-only version of the tournament expecting around 40 participants. After watching online applications hit 100, they peaked at 120, accompanied by more than 250 spectators at the event.
Key to the popularity of the event was the marketing machine behind it — including club flyers, handouts at other tournaments, contacting the local media, procuring sponsorship dollars, promoting the event on social media, phoning friends and acquaintances, and on and on.
Mike says, “I feel as though my success with this tournament boils down to the fact that I had a great promotional plan and spent the many hours it took to execute.” It also resulted in setting a foundation for the promise of one-day tournaments for busy adults, and phone calls from other tournament directors in Florida and out-of-state asking for guidance in how to run USTA short-format events.
USTA Florida Female Player of the Year
Doris Jane Lutz of Sarasota
Her quote is, “No man (or woman) is an island onto himself (or herself). We are all a part of the main.”
— John Donne
It’s hard to categorize Doris, except as perhaps the Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic of the Super Seniors players wrapped into one.
The 87-year-old said “I’m playing as good as I ever was” late last year when she was en route to finishing No. 1 in the singles, team and individual doubles rankings in the U.S. Then she won her second consecutive title in the women’s 85s division in Antalya, Turkey, at the ITF Super-Seniors World Individual Championships. For good measure she also won the Mixed 85s division.
This was on top of career accomplishments that include ranking No. 1 in the world over the last three years, representing the U.S. on six international Super Senior teams, and individually winning three USTA National “Gold Slams” — that’s claiming national titles in the same year on all four surfaces. Not bad for someone who didn’t have a tennis racquet in their hands until 50 years of age. By age 65 she had captured the first of 34 USTA Gold Balls, and still counting.
Of her theme quote she says, “No tennis player becomes a player, a competitor, a star, a professional, or a lover of the game without a lot of help and encouragement from others. To all of them, I say, thank you!”
Frank Vermeer of Jacksonville
His quote is “Whatever you are, be a good one”
by Abraham Lincoln
When last year’s ITF Seniors World Individual Championships were held in Palm Beach Gardens, the event kick-started results for Frank Vermeer, who reached the final before losing a tight three-setter. Since then the Jacksonville resident has been on a tear at USPTA, ITF and USTA League events.
The director of tennis at Deerwood Country Club finished 2014 at No. 2 in the USPTA Grand Prix Men’s 45 rankings. This year he sits at No. 1 after winning the USPTA Clay Court Championships in May in singles, doubles and mixed; and in September finishing runner-up to doubles partner Jeff Cohen, and winning the doubles, at the inaugural USPTA Masters Invitational.
Last year and in 2012 he represented the USTA Florida Section with his team at the USTA League Men’s 5.0 Nationals. His wife, he says, also keeps him on point as a former professional player, and they have won two Husband-Wife Gold Balls. He is also been active as a local USPTA president, is a USPTA Florida board member for 2015, and is active assisting local charity organizations such as the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation.
Following his dream, Frank came to the U.S. eight years ago with his wife, son, three suitcases and $1,000. “We came to build a new life,” he says, “and we haven’t regretted that decision for one single day!”
David Harrison of Ft. Lauderdale
His slogan is “Go big or go home, or go to the hospital!”
On and off the court, David Harrison has been collecting wins over the last year in wheelchair tennis, and providing a spark for the sport in Southeast Florida. Due in part to his efforts, the area has become a hotbed for wheelchair tennis in the state.
The former US Open semifinalist and former No. 8 in the world in the Quad division won the 2015 Music City Classic in Nashville while playing a limited tournament schedule this year. It wasn’t until age 37 that he discovered wheelchair tennis after excelling in wheelchair rugby. He was duel-sport athlete for years until he ended his rugby career after that year’s national championships.
At the Patch Reef Tennis Center he organizes players while Jim Tierney runs the clinics. Additionally David did all the measuring and ordering of the club’s initial tennis wheelchair fleet, which was funded by a grant from the USTA. Tierney adds, “David is the one person every tournament director or tennis pro wishes they knew. David is a sincere and quite man, but he is the lynchpin for Patch Reef Tennis Center’s wheelchair tennis program. He is always inviting players he meets to participate in its program, and when it’s tournament time, David talks it up in front of players and calls others to get them to sign up.”
Regarding his slogan, David says, “Being a player with a disability which has eliminated my ability to sweat, playing tennis could literally kill me if I overheat! But wheelchair tennis has kept me active both socially and physically, and has allowed me to meet many new friends who share my passion.”
Rick Macci Masters Level 6, Boca Lago Country Club, Boca Raton
Accepting the award ~ Byron Gill
His slogan is “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.”
Byron Gill remembers the tournaments that were fun and rewarding when he was a junior tennis player, and he makes that the model for running an event — to try and give the same experiences back to junior players today.
Approaching 20 years of organizing tournaments, he says the success of the Rick Macci Masters Level 6 can be attributed to paying attention to the little things, and empowering junior players to help make it a great event. The third-generation tennis pro says he learned some of his greatest lessons from his father and grandfather who owned tennis clubs. From 12 years old on he was learning the methodology for running successful tournaments that he still applies today.
“My focus for our tournaments is on the players and not the parents,” he says. “I try to educate the parents more than anything, and work diligently to have the kids take responsibility and control of their tournament.”
The result is accommodating players and parents who may be at different points in their development or knowledge, and bringing them all together. Patience and understanding, says Byron, are the two key words, and never thinking you’re beyond learning new management or communications skills.
Jose Caballero of Boca Raton
His theme song is “Vivir Mi Vida” from Marc Anthony
Jose in a little over 15 years has gone from junior college tennis star to a star-maker.
The 1997 junior college individual national champion, his Miami-Dade Community College team also won the national championship that year, and soon after he was changing lives by following his coaching passion. A USTA National Trainer for the past eight years, he has been instrumental not only training top juniors but as a USTA Workshop Faculty Coach. In this role he delivers high-performance workshops, and serves on the USTA Florida Coaches Commission to identify and develop top talent.
He says, “One of the most important duties that I performed is as a workshop leader motivating other coaches to become better coaches. I provide them the necessary tools in order for them to be able to motivate their students to practice and participate in the amazing sport of tennis.”
Whether as a coach at the national USTA Training Center in Boca Raton, or as a head coach at the USTA Florida Diversity Camps, or coaching or directing at the various academies around Boca Raton, Jose has shown himself as a master motivator of students, and a master trainer of coaches in Florida and around the country. And like his theme song, he is living his life to the fullest.
Victoria Emma of Naples
Her Song theme is “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus
Sixteen-year-old Victoria Emma turned heads last year when she swept the singles and doubles titles at the USTA National 14s Clay Courts as an unseeded player in both events, taking home two Gold Balls. Starting from a then-No. 252 ranking, Emma’s star has continued to shine bright into 2015.
This year she won the ITF-level junior event in Claremont, Calif., and in June won her first Florida state singles title at the Bobby Curtis Junior State Singles Championships in the Girls’ 16s division as the No. 3 seed. Last year at the state singles she played only one game before withdrawing due to a fracture in her shoulder. This year her return to the Florida Tennis Center was all the sweeter when she won the title despite battling injuries again.
The aspiring anesthesiologist looks to go to college, then play pro tennis before returning to school. Of her chosen theme song, “The Climb,” she says “It’s about how it is not about how fast you get there, but how achieving your dreams and goals takes hard work and dedication.”
She say she is thankful to USTA Florida for her growth and success, adding, “I began playing USTA events at the age of 6 and started my career playing all local and state events. The opportunity to compete at each level has greatly enhanced my development. I have learned sportsmanship, integrity, honesty, confidence and work ethic.”
Chris Herman of Gulfport
His theme is “Take it to the limit”
Rising to No. 3 in the world junior wheelchair boys’ rankings this year, Florida’s Chris Herman was the lone American boy ranked in the world Top 15 as of this fall. Rising from a year-end ranking of No. 21 in 2014, this year he led the U.S. World Team Cup junior team to the world title as the No. 1 singles player. It was the first time in 15 years that the U.S. captured the equivalent of the Junior Davis Cup for wheelchair tennis.
The 17-year-old has also this year cracked the Top 100 in the world men’s open division. Chris quickly rose to become a top junior wheelchair player after a car accident at the age of 10 left him a paraplegic. Winning this year’s gold medal at the 2015 Paribas World Team Cup Wheelchair Tennis Tournament is perhaps a precursor as he looks to contend for the U.S. at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The winner of the Scholar Athlete award at St. Petersburg Catholic High School, Chris says, “Wheelchair tennis has given me opportunities to meet people and travel the world, including Turkey, France, South Korea, Japan, Netherlands, Canada, Ecuador, and all across the USA. I have met great people that have overcome physical obstacles with courage and grace. I have made good and lasting friendships with people from all over. Also, I appreciate the opportunity to compete at a professional, world-class level.”
Gloria Rosas of Fellsmere
Her song theme is “We Are the World”
In her 18 years volunteering for the City of Fellsmere, Gloria Rosas’ last 12 have involved tennis in the socio-economically-challenged, predominately-Hispanic community. When the one and only tennis court in the community was resurfaced with new Youth Tennis equipment provided, Gloria provided a weekly program serving children of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission.
Beginning last year she became the volunteer program coordinator for USTA Florida’s Tenis para Todos effort in the area, recruiting Hispanic and children of all sizes and colors to play in the weekly program that continues today.
She says, “The community is predominately Hispanic and one with many social problems. With the lack of wholesome activities for children, especially teenagers, this program has been a great fit for the community.” She also recruits high school students to volunteer with the smaller children on and off the court for their community service hours, some of who now work with the program as adult volunteers. Gloria attributes the program to helping her English, and helping her gain confidence in herself as a community leader.
She says she now enjoys serving as a bridge to other underserved adults who have felt like they could not serve their community due to a language barrier. Battling low expectations, she says that like her theme song “We Are the World,” that “we are the ones that make a brighter day” by serving children.
Conrad Cowan of Oviedo
His song theme is “The Best is Yet to Come” by Frank Sinatra
Director of tennis can be an all-encompassing title, with little time for anything else. Conrad Cowan has admittedly worked to shed that notion over the past few years, growing as a person to become a steward of tennis in Central Florida and beyond, in addition to his position at the Interlachen Country Club in Winter Park.
Conrad does not work directly as a volunteer for USTA Florida, but has worked closely with USTA Florida volunteers and employees to further the sport. The 2015 USPTA Florida Division President of the Year has been a USPTA member for more than 30 years, and represents the best of the partnership that has formed between USTA Florida and USPTA Florida over the years. He is vice president of the newly-formed Mid-Florida Tennis Association, and he founded the USPTA District 4 Central Florida Advisory Council that receives input from coaches, teaching pros and community leaders.
Part of his self-imposed mandate as the new USPTA District 4 president was reaching out to everyone involved in tennis in Central Florida, and to build an inclusive network that impacted participation in the game. He says, “I was guilty of not knowing how USTA Florida operates, and the many challenges and successes of the organization. For many years I remained in my private country club environment. Now I feel it is time to give something back and hopefully provide some mentoring for younger pros coming up.”
Janet Raney of Deland
Her slogan is “Teach the children well”
Physical education cut-backs in schools have left many K-8 kids on the sidelines, and relegated sports that were once played in gym class, such as tennis. For former teacher Janet Raney, that was unacceptable.
In year one of her after-school tennis club at Southwestern Middle School, she used racquets and balls that were donated by her friends. Over the last two years the program was supplemented by equipment grants from USTA Florida. Now the USTA Youth Tennis age-appropriate racquets, balls, nets and court sizes allow her students with and without disabilities to play together on the same court.
She has made partnerships with local teaching pros, reached out for funding from the Council for Exceptional Children, transported children that did not have transportation to and from the program, and chaired a charity event to raise money for scholarships for students with disabilities who are graduating from the high schools. She has also started programs at two local child care centers, with her tennis students as volunteers. Her after-school programs and activities are at no cost to the schools.
She says, “Seeing children with and without disabilities enjoying tennis is awesome. These are good children who deserve the opportunity to swing a tennis racquet.”
Of her slogan she says, “It’s our responsibility to help children grow into good people.”
Evelyn Baumner of Delray Beach
Her slogan is “Every child deserves a chance to play, regardless of abilities or inabilities”
A world with so many sports to choose from makes Evelyn Baumner even more motivated. The coach for the 10 and Under Tennis program at Patch Reef Tennis Center does whatever she can outside of her regular work duties to get kids hooked on tennis.
Kids as early as age 3 hit foam balls, as well as autistic children under the age of 10. When ROGY, or L9 tournaments as they will be known in 2016, came on the scene, Evelyn was the first to jump at running such events for beginners.
She says, “We are losing lots of children to other sports such as soccer, football and gymnastics. 10 and Under Tennis motivated me to help children learn tennis and the basic fundamentals in order to get them to play with other kids. With the new equipment that we have today for kids, it’s so encouraging to see how quickly they can learn.”
Completing every level of 10 and Under Tennis training, she registers all her Play Days and events on the USTA Florida website calendar, holds Play Days every Friday, and maintains contact with USTA Florida staff and the website to stay updated with the latest marketing materials for her program and facility.
“I had one child in my autistic program that I removed,” she said, “because he has gotten so good. Our program has grown because of USTA, and 10 and Under Tennis has enriched my life by helping families and kids come together and learn the sport of tennis.”
Barbara Jones of Brandon
Her song slogan is “I Hope You Dance” by Leann Womack
From player to organizer to charity volunteer to self-described “life-long learner and contributor to tennis,” nothing is outside of Barbara Jones’ job description when it comes to providing opportunities for people to play the sport of a lifetime.
A contractor to coordinate local adult senior leagues in Hillsborough County, she goes about and beyond by serving on state committees, regional committees to grow participation, assists at entry-level player events, volunteers on USTA tournaments committees, and has helped organize a local Susan G. Komen Cancer Tennis Tournament.
She is often in day-to-day contact with her teams that have advanced to league nationals. She also knows her customers well as a player herself, reaching USTA League Nationals three times, and advancing to the National Senior Games twice as the Florida division winner in her age group.
Of her theme song choice she says, “The song includes messages like ‘Never take a single breath for granted,’ and ‘Never lose your sense of wonder,’ and ‘Never take the path of least resistance.’ When you have the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”
Cary Bayer of Hillsboro Beach
His song slogan is “Make ‘Em Laugh” from
MGM’s Singing in the Rain
A regional blogger and writer who profiles tennis happenings in Southeast Florida’s Region 8, Cary has over the years added professionalism and a light-hearted touch to his monthly regional reporting on the USTA Florida website. In fact if you’re a Region 8 volunteer, you’ve likely already spoken to Cary this weekend.
He says, “At USTA Florida conferences I approach so many Region 8 tennis players for column ideas I sometimes feel like ‘The Great Accoster,’ but I’m more like Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter for a non-metropolitan-tennis association publication.” He says his favorite t-shirt is a picture of the Buddha which says, “Wake up laughing.” He says, “When I can share that lightness with the readers of my USTA Florida blog with humorous headlines and unexpected turns of phrases, all the better.”
In addition to running his own public relations firm for 18 years and writing two books, ‘Zen Teachings of Tennis’ and ‘Zen Teachings of Sports,’ Cary is a former sports contributor to the New York Daily News, New York Sports and the San Francisco Chronicle. This year he has chronicled Junior Team Tennis volunteers, the Hispanic “Tenis para Todos” initiative, the Masters Tennis format, extraordinary USTA League captains, and wheelchair tennis players and events, among others.
He says, “Tennis, writing, and comedy are my passions. The enormous level of volunteer service to USTA Florida by tennis players throughout the state and, in particular, in my region has inspired me to write about their remarkable service.”
Samantha Roy of Tallahassee
Her slogan is “Don’t rush and never settle. If it’s meant to be, it will be.”
As Florida ‘Tennis on Campus’ club teams have strived to break the stranglehold that UF and UCF have had over the last 10 years, Samantha Roy’s leadership as Florida State University has lifted it to arguably the highest level in the history of the program.
She has overseen a presidency where the FSU club team has doubled their participation at tournaments, and increased the competitiveness of their top teams. At the end of the 2014-15 season FSU received the Florida ‘Tennis on Campus’ Club of the Year Award for their increased success and off-court accomplishments. Samantha also directed a viral video created by the club to promote participation.
She says, “The potential that I saw in the tennis club was my driving force. Not only was it the on-court part of the club I wanted to change, it was the off-court friendships. It is the bonds that were formed between the different players that made our season as successful and fun as it was. The leadership opportunities that came from the club has opened doors for me that I never had though possible.”
One door was having the opportunity to serve as an intern in the USTA national Professional Development department. Next spring, Samantha will finish her marketing and finance degree with a concentration in sports marketing, and she plans to pursue her childhood dream of working for the USTA or another organization in the tennis industry.
Tara Dominguez of Pensacola
Her song slogan is “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons
Known as “The Tennis Lady” to kids in Pensacola, Tara Dominguez has taken team tennis play for children to the next level on the Florida Panhandle.
A 10 and Under Tennis coordinator for the Florida Section, Tara went well outside the duties of her position when it came to her attention that children in Pensacola has few opportunities to play on teams. She said, “I became painfully aware that my community needed play opportunities for youth of all ages and levels. To date, I have had six seasons of Junior Team Tennis with over 150 kids each session, and multiple schools and facilities are represented in the league.”
The Florida Section’s Andy McFarland said, “None of Tara’s job requirements were to organize and coordinate a JTT local league. She has been organizing Junior Team Tennis in her community voluntarily, even without resources over the last few years.” In facilitating two 6-8 week seasons during the year she has recruited school and facility teams, players and team captains, organized teams and divisions, created play schedules, secured and reserved courts, and attended matches to provide additional support.
Of her song slogan, she says, “Before I started this league there was no play pathway, no recreational play opportunity, no team tennis element, and when it existed in the past it wasn’t well organized and had lots of turnover. I knew it was time for a new league, new leadership and a renewed passion.”