By Dana Andrews, USTA Florida President
Passed in 1972, Title IX banned discrimination in higher education. The law stated that colleges could not exclude women from any activity, including sports, and provided greater access to collegiate level sports for women. Because of Title IX, women were not only given the opportunity to play in college, but also to perhaps take a leap to the professional level. A great example is St. Peterburg’s Danielle Collins, who has shown her tennis collegiate pathway has benefited her in the professional arena. Women could also envision a career in coaching in their respective sport, whether it be at the local, collegiate or professional level.
Women’s involvement in sports is soaring to new heights. Kristi Coleman has been named the first president of the Carolina Panthers in franchise history. Rachel Balkovec is the first female manager in affiliated professional baseball after the Yankees selected her to lead the Tampa Tarpons. I am excited to see the new position of Director of Coach Education for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association being led by Danielle McNamara, former Yale women’s tennis coach. Her role will entail building upon a mentorship program, new coach orientation, and providing coach education for all coaches in all divisions.
Growing up, I did not have an opportunity to have a female coach. However, my daughter Claire-Mitchell was blessed in college to be mentored by Catherine Dunagan, current women’s tennis head coach at the University of North Florida. I talked with Catherine about her “pathway” and why she decided to become a coach. She shared that when she was a player, she realized how she would have appreciated some guidance from a female coach. She was inspired to impact players mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As she said, the “winning and losing” will work itself out. But chances are if you are having that type of positive impact on a player, the wins will come.
At USTA Florida, we want to encourage more women to get involved in the tennis industry, whether it be as a player, coach, or a leader in another capacity. On our Board, we have Rita Dotson making a huge impact in the Pensacola tennis community, and we have Delise O’Meally, a former collegiate tennis player who is now the CEO of the Institute of Sport and Social Justice. In 2022, USTA Florida is taking steps to “inspire, recruit and represent” women in our industry through its DEI Task Force and Amplify. We want to highlight women who are making an impact in our tennis community. We want to partner with diverse organizations to recruit more women of color and diverse backgrounds to play or coach as a profession. At our conferences and meetings, we are striving to have more women represented as speakers. We are developing a formal speakers database, so if you are interested or know of someone you would like the organization to reach out to, please reach out with your information.
Although I never had a female coach, I had to first get past my mom before starting to play with my dad! After losing to her several times, I finally won. She said to me later, she knew she would never beat me again. But I was beyond blessed because she never stopped being my “life coach”.
For more inspiring features on women in Florida tennis, click here, and be sure to follow @ustaflorida on social media throughout the month of March.