December 29th, 2020
Tallahassee’s Tucker Named USTA Florida Tennis Volunteer of the Month
46 years after taking her first tennis lessons at what was then called the Forestmeadows Racquet Club in Tallahassee, Kelly Tucker is sharing the happiness and joy the sport has given her.
“I love the sport and want to give back because of everything the sport has given me over the years,” shares Tucker. “I absolutely love working with youth and making a difference in their lives through tennis.”
The 60-year-old has been working with special needs athletes for two decades and has been a volunteer tennis coach with Leon County Special Olympics for more than 12 years. Her dedication earned her the title of Leon County Inspiration Coach of the Special Olympics Summer Games in 2019 and Leon County Coach of the Year in 2018.
“Kelly devotes countless hours to helping special needs children and underserved children learn to play tennis in the Tallahassee community,” says USTA Florida’s George English, a Tennis Service Representative. “She is very passionate as a volunteer, and the Tallahassee tennis community is very fortunate to have someone like her around.”
Every year during the spring, Tucker coaches between 8-10 Special Olympics athletes. The season normally starts in February but 2020 brought a different challenge – the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were unable to have a regular season and still haven’t been able to resume tennis play for these athletes,” she says. “However, I have about 18 athletes/unified partners that I am currently working with through a Virtual Miles program created by the State’s Special Olympics office.”
Five of Tucker’s tennis athletes are participating in Virtual Miles – a 9-week program with weekly tallies of miles run, walked, biked or rolled, designed for athletes of all ability levels. Even though she doesn’t have the opportunity to teach the tennis she loves right now, she is thrilled the athletes still have an outlet to keep them active and engaged.
“I have been so blessed to work with some of the most fun-loving and happiest athletes,” Tucker confides. “They literally make me smile every time I am around them and they bring me immense joy.”
When Tallahassee’s tennis programs resume for youth, Tucker will be assisting with an after-school tennis program for the underserved population.
“I absolutely love working with the underserved population as they would not have a chance to play tennis otherwise if it weren’t for volunteers like me or the city providing programs at no cost for a lot of them to play,” says Tucker. “Knowing that I might have a chance to make a difference in a child’s life is my primary motivation for working with this population.”
Tucker has devoted her life to volunteering with underserved children in Tallahassee for the better part of 20 years.
“There are so many underserved children who don’t have a chance to succeed in life due to their circumstances,” she explains. “Knowing that you are at least giving them an opportunity to be successful through tennis is hugely rewarding.”
For Tucker, tennis affords her the greatest opportunity to give back to her community. Her first experience volunteering in tennis was in the late 70s and early 80s as a ball kid for the professional women’s tournaments that came to Tallahassee. Since then, she’s made it her mission to teach others the sport she loves while working to make a difference in her young athletes’ lives.
“Through tennis you can teach children life skills, sportsmanship and teamwork which is so important,” she says.
USTA Florida thanks Kelly Tucker for her dedication to special needs and underserved children and her passion for introducing them to the great sport of tennis.
Birthplace: New Albany, Indiana
Family: My father, Don; my mother, Janice; and my two siblings Kevin and Kristy. I have two grown boys, Shelby and Cameron.
Favorite Movie: Godfather
Favorite Food: Any fish
Favorite Travel Spot: New York City
Favorite Shot: Overhead
My earliest tennis memory was…”Hitting balls on the garage door.”
If I could play tennis with three people, they would be… “Chris Evert, Roger Federer, and Arthur Ashe.”
When I am not playing tennis I am… “Playing golf.”
My best tennis memory is… “Winning a district Father-Daughter tournament in a close three sets.”
I like to volunteer in tennis because… “I love the sport and want to give back because of everything the sport has given me over the years. I absolutely love working with youth and making a difference in their lives through tennis.”
Interested in volunteering in tennis? Visit www.USTAFlorida.com/Volunteers to learn more about available opportunities.