July 29th, 2021
LSA Volunteer Gurshaney Named USTA Florida Tennis Volunteer of the Month
Do you recall your first introduction to tennis? For 17-year-old Sanjeev Gurshaney, a student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the memory feels like it just happened yesterday.
“After coming home from a swimming lesson when I was 7 years old, I was able to catch a glimpse of an exciting tennis match being played at the local community courts,” remembers Gurshaney, who was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Montgomery, Ala. “I remember seeing the enormous focus of each player, hearing the loud cheering of the crow, and shuddering at how hard the balls were being hit.”
Gurshaney became so captivated with the sheer intensity of the game that he was eager to immediately get out on the court to try and hit a few balls.
“Within that week, I went with my dad to the local courts for the first time,” he adds. “My love for tennis has continued to grow ever since.”
Now ten years later, some of Gurshaney’s most cherished experiences have been shared with the close friends he’s made through various tournaments and other tennis-related events. Throughout his past decade of involvement with the sport, he says he was fortunate to receive crucial advice and tips from several coaches, athletes and others – many of whom were complete strangers.
“I distinctly remember an occasion where I was struggling with my serve while warming up, and an unknown coach took the time to visit my court and give corrections on my technique. There was another instance where after getting injured at a major Southern USTA tournament, multiple people had stopped by to give valuable advice on injury prevention,” he says. “Thus, I believe that it is highly imperative that I take the initiative to give back to the community that has helped me become the player I am today.”
About five years ago in his hometown of Montgomery, Gurshaney signed up to volunteer at Dream Court, a pioneering initiative started by a local coach to teach children with special needs and autism how to play tennis. For many of the participants, tennis was the only opportunity they had for any sort of physical activity.
“I recall being inspired at how a particular athlete, who had tremendous difficulty in walking and was in visible discomfort attempting to move across the court, would still, despite his disability, become over the moon with excitement every time he would successfully complete a drill,” he shares. “Seeing how much these athletes wanted to play made me really motivated to help them make significant improvements, which not only would translate to their tennis but also to their overall quality of life.”
After moving to Orlando to pursue his undergraduate education at UCF, Gurshaney continues to actively volunteer in tennis. He is the president of Knight PALS for Autism at UCF, a student organization that works to promote autism awareness as well as develop and increase sports-related volunteering opportunities to serve individuals with autism spectrum disorders. He also serves as a volunteer tennis coach with Love Serving Autism, a non-profit organization that provides specialized therapeutic programs focusing on tennis, communication and life skills for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders and developmental challenges.
“My experience with Love Serving Autism has been absolutely outstanding,” says Gurshaney, who volunteers with the program at Gooding Todero Academy in Orlando. “Seeing the athletes eagerly run to the court from their cars to come to practice every week or jump up and down the court in excitement as they hit a forehand over the net, continues to be highly rewarding and further drives my passion to help those with special needs.”
Gurshaney also stepped up to volunteer for the 2021 Special Olympics Florida State Tennis Championships, held back in May at the USTA National Campus in Orlando. The games attracted more than 170 singles and doubles tennis athletes from across the state, representing 19 counties.
“Sanjeev has been such an amazing volunteer for adaptive tennis in Central Florida,” shared USTA Florida Community Play Coordinator Magali Holt. “He’s committed, has a strong work ethic and exudes passion for giving back and tennis. Our athletes adore Sanjeev!”
Tennis may be more widely known as an individual sport, but for Gurshaney it yields an outlet into a larger community that continuously provides play opportunities with people from several different walks of life. USTA Florida thanks Sanjeev Gurshaney for giving back to the tennis community and sharing his passion by helping individuals who have limited opportunities for athletic activity experience the joy of tennis.
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio
Favorite Movie: My Cousin Vinny
Favorite Food: Pizza
Favorite Travel Spot: Nashville, Tennessee
Favorite Shot: Swinging volley
My earliest tennis memory was… “Going out to the community tennis courts for the first time with my dad at age 7.”
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be… “Roger Federer, Alexander Dolgopolov, Venus Williams.”
When I am not playing tennis I am… “Working in the lab, doing yoga, volunteering with the citizenship program at Hope Community Center.”
My best tennis memory is… “Volunteering at the 2021 Florida Tennis Special Olympic Games. It was amazing to see so many athletes challenging themselves and having a blast on the court, in spite of their disabilities.”
I like to volunteer in tennis because… “Tennis has been a significant part of my life for several years and through it, I have been able to have so many incredible experiences. Helping those with special needs, who often only have limited opportunities for athletic activity, experience the joy of tennis is something that I am very passionate about.”
Interested in volunteering in tennis? Visit www.USTAFlorida.com/Volunteers to learn more about available opportunities.