July 8th, 2015

Ft. Myers’ Lanzalotta, USTA ‘Red Ball’ Produce ‘Amazing’ Special Olympics Tennis Results

Diversity USTA Florida Foundation

lanzalotta-kathy-webKathy Lanzalotta of Fort Myers, Fla., the USTA Florida June 2015 Volunteer of the Month, has volunteered with Special Olympics tennis in her area for nine years — and thought she had seen it all.

Lanzalotta works with the most-challenged participants in the program at the Rutenberg Park Tennis Center in Fort Myers, where play is free to all eligible participants every Tuesday from October through May. Rule changes this year for Special Olympics tennis introduced modified kids equipment, including lower-bouncing balls, smaller courts sizes, and easier-to-use shorter racquets from the USTA 10 and Under Tennis format.

“This past year was a major adjustment for every player, since the court size was reduced, and modified, spongy red balls that move 75 percent slower were introduced,” Lanzalotta said. “There was much skepticism in the beginning of the season…”

It didn’t last long.

“But that was overcome over the course of the year with amazing results!” she added.

The same USTA 10 and Under Tennis equipment that is producing all-court players among young children just starting the game has also proven to be the perfect vehicle for physically-challenged Special Olympics tennis participants of all ages.

“My group of athletes all were successful in learning to serve and play points out against each other,” Lanzalotta said. “I feel grateful in assisting them reach their highest level of competency.”

Rutenberg Park and its Special Olympics tennis volunteers strive to provide an Olympic-type sports experience, giving players continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience the joy of sport. The program is part of the partnership between the USTA Florida Section Foundation, the giving arm of USTA Florida, and Special Olympics Florida to provide more tennis play opportunities to athletes in Florida.

“At Special Olympics Florida, we embrace the transformative power of sports,” says Sherry Wheelock, president and chief executive officer of Special Olympics Florida. “USTA Florida and the USTA Florida Section Foundation help us bring first-rate trainings and competitive experiences to our athletes throughout the state.”

USTA Florida thanks Kathy Lanzalotta as the June Volunteer of the Month for giving back to her community and its Special Olympics tennis participants.

“It’s such a rewarding experience,” she says. “I love watching my players progress on the tennis courts with my help.”


Birthplace: New York City, N.Y.
Family Members: Mother, father and older sister deceased. Another older brother and sister, one brother.
Favorite Movie: Sound of Music
Favorite Food: Lobster roll, or my special homemade N.Y. cheesecake
Favorite Travel: Club Med Sandpiper, Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Favorite Shot: Drop shot

My earliest tennis memory was…“of biking to the Darien, Connecticut high school to take summer camp tennis lessons when I was 12 from college students. I’m still playing and enjoying tennis 50 years later.”

If I could play tennis with any three people…“I’d play mixed doubles with my fellow Americans Mike and Bob Bryan and Serena Williams. I lived in Columbia, Maryland for many years and watched Bob and Mike Bryan play in the Legg Mason tennis tournament in D.C. before they were so well known.”

My best tennis memory is…“a tie between going to 4.0 USTA League Nationals in Tucson, Arizona when I still played singles, or meeting my now-husband of 35 years on the tennis courts my freshman year in college.”

When I am not playing tennis I am…“kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and playing mahjongg.”