September 28th, 2017
Palm Beach Gardens’ Graceman Named Florida Tennis Volunteer of the Month
When Joanne Graceman relocated to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., approximately five years ago, it was not with tennis in mind.
But living in the same community as the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, and receiving world-class instruction from a renowned tennis pro can quickly change your mind.
“She loves tennis and promotes USTA activities all the time,” says Trish Faulkner, the director of tennis at the BallanIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, who brought Graceman back into the tennis loop after a 15-year leave of absence from the sport. “Joanne assists at every tournament and special event we have in the area, not just at BallenIsles. BallenIsles could not have held the successful ITF World Championships without Joanne and her husband Ron as they did everything.”
Graceman’s volunteerism has also resulted in her getting back on the court — and tips from the Williams sisters haven’t hurt.
“I am lucky to live where Venus and Serena play and have had the pleasure of hitting with both of them. It doesn’t get much better than that,” she says. “We really just had a lot of fun. The one pointer Venus gave me was regarding her early preparation for the ball. She tried to show me how to watch the ball being hit off of my opponent’s racket to give myself more time to prepare for my next shot.”
Besides watching the two former No. 1-ranked players in the world firsthand, she has also benefited from other local pro events and volunteering at the ITF World Championships, which brought the top amateur players in the world to BallenIsles.
“I have been volunteering for Trish at club events, USTA events and ITF events for the past four years,” Graceman said. “I originally started volunteering in tennis because of a personal interest in tennis, children and education. I want to help those less fortunate than me.”
That includes events such as Jamie’s Angels, which offers tennis classes to children with special needs at BallenIsles. The club obtained a USTA Florida Foundation grant for racquets and equipment, and the USTA’s Special Olympics partner, Special Olympics Florida, trained volunteers who “fell in love” with the kids and the program.
Faulkner, who competed six times at Wimbledon and is the current president of the USPTA (United States Professional Tennis Association) Florida Division among her many accolades, has watched Graceman grow as a player and a volunteer growing the sport locally.
“She assisted this past year for the Les Grandes Dames [tournament], the USTA National Father-Daughter, the USTA National 40-50 Women’s Claycourts and the Little Mo Internationals,” says Faulkner of Graceman. “The Gracemans do registration, transportation, merchandising, as well as assisting with all the social events for tournaments.”
Graceman says tennis provides her exercise, friendships, laughter, and keeps her mind engaged. Now she is stretching herself further by captaining a league team. “Team play is challenging for me,” she says. “It teaches me to play to win a match, and I like having to think about how to win against different opponents.”
USTA Florida thanks and congratulates Joanne Graceman as the Florida Tennis Volunteer of the Month for September 2017 for her many volunteer hours towards creating tennis play opportunities for Palm Beach Gardens-area adults and children.
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisc.
Family: Husband, two daughters, and 1-1/2 grandchildren
Favorite Movie: “I do not have a favorite movie.”
Favorite Food: “Fresh-steamed Maine lobster.”
Favorite Travel: “Home. We have four daughters and grandchildren who are all over the country. We visit all of them regularly, so that when we get home I am always happy.”
Favorite Shot: “The one that wins the point.”
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be…”My husband and Venus and Serena Williams.”
When I am not playing tennis I am…”Volunteering for the BI Charity Foundation and learning how to play golf.”
My best tennis memory is…”My team win today. I was subbing up with an elderly team member who has not won yet this season. We won the match and for me to see the satisfaction on my partner’s face was worth everything.”
I like to volunteer in tennis because…”I love the game and the wonderful tennis program; pros, maintenance staff and courts where I play.”