May 28th, 2018

President Message Q&A: The Future of USTA Florida Tennis with Executive Director Laura Bowen

General News

By Robert Hollis, USTA Florida volunteer president

To provide more insight into some of the recent exciting changes at USTA Florida, I sat down with our new Executive Director Laura Bowen for a Q&A regarding her vision for 2018 and beyond, and the growth of the organization in its new home in Orlando next to the USTA National Campus, the “Home of American Tennis.”

Q: Where is the organization following the retirement of Doug Booth after 29 years with USTA Florida?

Laura Bowen: USTA Florida is at a pivotal point in its history. The world around us has changed considerably during the last 30 years. In the last 10 years, the pace of change has accelerated considerably. We are fortunate that Doug and our volunteer leadership recognized and embraced that change. They put resources in place that position the organization to move at the current pace of consumers — not behind them. We have new technology, new staff, and new ideas. It’s very exciting!

Q: What have the first four months been like after relocating from Daytona Beach to Orlando next to the USTA National Campus?

A: It’s been a combination of consistency and newness. We have an amazing core group of staff who planned our transition to the Orlando office for more than a year. Many of us already had been working events at the USTA National Campus for months. When our office opened in November, we were ready to hit the ground running. Being in a new location provided us with an opportunity to bring in a lot of new talented people.

Our newer staff have no idea how we did things before, so they are setting the tone for future innovation. Of course, having USPTA and the USTA National Campus next door brings a wealth of additional opportunities to work as a whole unit. We’re just starting to tap into that.

USTA Florida Executive Director Laura Bowen

Q: USTA Florida brought a number of local league coordinators on as full-time staff as well as some other hires, how will this affect the growth of recreational tennis in Florida?

A: It’s no secret that tennis has struggled to attract new, diverse and younger people to our sport. To attract different people, we have to look like the communities we serve AND be fully present there. When I started working for USTA Florida in 2011, I was one of just two staff under the age of 40. Now, most of our new hires in the office are under 30, and they are from a wide range of backgrounds. They represent the market we want to reach, and they are changing how we present ourselves to potential consumers. That’s vital to our growth.

When it comes to growing recreational tennis, being locally present is equally vital. We can’t just hop in and out of a community every once in a while, do an event or site visit and go home. We heard this loud and clear from our partners in the Hispanic community when we launched our Tenis para Todos initiative. There has to be a sustained effort and commitment to working with facilities, providers, and consumers in a community to build trust. The hiring of local league coordinators who live and work in these communities gives us that consistent presence.
Our Tennis Management arm is a further extension of that commitment to invest locally. Operating public tennis facilities means we are serving the community every single day. We are fully invested in its growth and success. Most importantly, we are the very first touch point for a new consumer. We can ensure they have a great experience right out of the gate and get feedback that allows us to provide better play options.

Q: What do you see the next few years bringing for the USTA Florida Section and recreational tennis in the state?

A: I see a new, fresh face for tennis in Florida. I see more public tennis centers with the USTA Florida name on the front door. I see more innovation across the state. I see tennis for everyone.

Thanks to Laura for looking into her crystal ball and sharing some of the exciting developments with the Florida section that will grow adult and youth recreational tennis. Over her years with the organization she has exhibited excellence, dedication and the leadership skills and qualities the USTA Florida Board of Directors were looking for.

We’re excited about the future and the possibilities to further our mission “to promote and develop tennis in Florida.”