Nestled amongst 51st and 59th streets in Bradenton you will find the large, recreational hotspot G.T. Bray park – home to the G.T. Bray Recreation Center, a place many locals flock to for athletics from swimming and baseball to pickleball and tennis.

The park is operated by Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources, and one of the smiling faces visible behind the front desk is that of Sherry Price. Price was hired as a Recreation Coordinator three years ago, with the intention to revive tennis programming in the area.

Sherry Price

“There was very limited tennis programming when Parks and Recreation merged with Natural Resources in 2014,” says Price. “We wanted to bring back tennis not only at the park, but also create recreational and affordable programs for other communities in Manatee County.”

Price took her mission to re-develop tennis at G.T. Bray and in the surrounding communities to heart. She made it a point to discuss with her supervisor, division manager and director what practical and effective options were available to offer tennis clinics and lessons, all while still fulfilling her duties at the front desk. With eight clay courts and seven hard courts available at the park – there was plenty Price could do to get the game back in action.

“I discussed scheduling beginner, intermediate and advanced kids and adult programs mostly in the late afternoon and evenings during the week,” she shares.

Price’s determination to reinvigorate the sport in Manatee County comes from her experience in the game. She started playing when she was 7 years old, began her junior career at Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy when she was 10, stayed consistently in the top 10 nationally through 14s and kept high national rankings until she left Florida to play at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles and earned conference player awards. Since graduating, Price has held several positions in tennis, including working as a tennis teaching professional, coach, and assistant director. Her current position as Recreational Coordinator allows her dedication to the sport to shine – a shine that is noticed by others.

“Sherry is always willing to try new programming and works well with kids and adults,” says USTA Florida Local Adult Play Coordinator Janine Dennis. “She has run a social league for former high school and college players returning to the game after a long absence and has run USTA Florida’s ‘Love to Learn’ and ‘Love to Play’ programs.”

When she’s not helping encourage tennis newcomers with the ‘Love to…’ programs, Price is offering after school clinics, beginner and intermediate clinics, advanced drill/play clinics, doubles strategy clinics, semi-private lessons and teaching technique, biomechanics and footwork. She also has plans to encourage the facility to get more involved with the local schools.

“In the future I would like to set up agreements with our local schools and possibly be able to use spaces at the schools for programming,” says Price. “This can help engage kids with transportation constraints.”

Working at G.T. Bray has been an educational experience for Price, who previously only worked for private clubs or as an independent contractor. Her time in the public sector has taught her how to get creative with her time and resources, allowing her to push for the development of more programs, events and competitions at the facility to nurture the long-term health of tennis in the local community.

“Public parks are a vital organ in the sustainability and further development of the game of tennis,” Price explains. “Lower and middle-income families would be able to consider tennis as a realistic option for their children and for newcomers in the young adult demographic. I would argue most families will have a difficult time affording country clubs and academies, and I believe we should feel the obligation and urgency to provide that need to our community and support the game that we love.”

With the future of tennis development and education in Manatee County forefront in Price’s mind, she hopes to continue promoting tennis in order to grow the game in her surrounding communities.

“An achievement I have made this past year here, is reviving tennis programming in the county,” says Price. “My hope for the future is that we can provide family-oriented community events and socials here at our G.T. Bray campus and our outer site courts.”