The USTA Florida 2022 Annual Meeting was held this past weekend. Tennis leaders and organizers from across the state gathered to celebrate the success the sport has seen over the past year.
Things got started Friday night, when the USTA Florida Section Foundation welcomed The Exchange Band for a night of rocking out and raising money for a great cause. Led by USTA Florida Board President, Phil Girardi, the Exchange Band put on a memorable show.
Before taking the stage, the USTA Florida Foundation had a goal to raise $5,000, with all proceeds going toward the foundation’s mission of changing lives through tennis. The foundation not only reached their goal of $5,000, but went above and beyond raising $8,727 for tennis. On top of that, the USTA Florida Section matched the total to bring it to a grand sum of $17,454.
USTA Florida Foundation Donation Manager, Kelly Scalise was extremely happy with the turnout and said that the money will be put toward rebuilding tennis in Florida, after much of the state has been impacted due to the hurricane season. “Through the generosity of our Florida Tennis community, we have raised $8,727 which will be matched by the USTA Florida Section for a total of $17,454!” Scalise said. “All funds donated will directly fund relief grants to impact tennis facilities in Florida.”
Following the night of rock and roll, it was time to reveal the 2022 USTA Florida Section Award winners and recognize these individuals and organizations for their hard work throughout their tennis communities.
USTA Florida honored 12 people or groups ranging from exceptional volunteers and organizations to Hall of Fame inductees. The 2022 Hall of Fame class included Pierce Kelley, Terri Florio, Nancy Horowitz, and the late Larry Turville. You can view a full list of the award winners here.
On Sunday, USTA Florida welcomed the 2023-2024 Board Members, which saw Phil Girardi become the next President of the Board. He will be surrounded by other past board members such as Dana Andrews, Chuck Gill, Adam Ross, Mary Conaway, Marcelo Gouts, and Rita Dotson.
Also joining the board for the first time as Directors at Large are Kainoa Rosa and Daniel York. Both individuals are committed to making a difference in the tennis community and have fresh ideas to innovate the game.
The Board also outlined their strategic focus for the next two years to grow the game of tennis. The first priority is to identify and pursue innovative growth opportunities that can help reach new and diverse participants.
Other areas of focus include developing a new system and structure for volunteer engagement that will focus on key areas: advocacy, coaching and fundraising. To work with industry partners to implement a training and education program aimed at developing new and diverse coaches. And finally, to provide comprehensive support services to public parks throughout the state.
The meeting also saw a guest speaker along with a panel QnA session. Former Super Bowl MVP, Doug Williams, came by to talk with Florida tennis leaders. He shared his experience with persevering through tough times, and explained how important it is to make the most out of every opportunity.
The panel was hosted by USTA Florida Executive Director, Laura Bowen, with Phil Girardi, Dana Andrews, USTA CEO Lew Sherr, and Kathy Francis, a woman leader in tennis. They answered a handful of questions, with one of the most popular being on Pickleball.
While some people are worried that Pickleball courts are taking away from tennis courts, these leaders all see this as an opportunity to take advantage of these smaller courts. Both Girardi and Sherr shared their vision to host Red Ball play opportunities and Love to Learn classes, so more people that are learning the game of tennis, can do so on a smaller court.
Overall, the atmosphere for the entire weekend was one of a kind. The energy was great and the people in attendance offered nothing but positivity for tennis. The game is in the right hands and with a little help from everyone in their respective communities, there are no limits for where tennis can go in the upcoming year.