On National Girls & Women in Sports Day, USTA Florida wants to celebrate and highlight every girl and women that has made tennis the great sport it is today, and those that are working to make it even better in their communities.
Last year, USTA Florida launched its initiative to inspire girls and women to get involved in tennis. Fast forward, a year and we are seeing an increase in women participation across every level of play.
The three-step process from this initiative is to, “Inspire, Represent, Recruit” and it has done just that.
As we celebrate National Girls and Women in Sports Day, USTA Florida looks at all the accomplishments women are making in the industry.
Florida player Coco Gauff is inspiring the younger generation of girls that play tennis. Gauff is just 18 years old and has already found herself in a Grand Slam Finals, WTA Finals, and a Top 10 ranking in the world. Off the court, Gauff has been seen at events like the Courtside Cause, which raised funds for nonprofit organizations, played in the Bahamas to raise Hurricane Relief funds, and gone back to Delray Beach to help get kids ready for the new school year. Gauff is just one of the many Florida pro players who are and have given back to tennis and their larger communities.
USTA Florida is planning to hold its second annual All Girls camp in 2023, where young ladies from the ages of 5-18 can come out to a day of tennis surrounded by inspirational women in the industry. Last year’s event held in partnership with University of North Florida and Universal Tennis Rating was a massive success and every participant left with a smile on their face.
Executive Director of USTA Florida, Laura Bowen was incredibly proud of everyone’s efforts to help create this chance for young girls. “It’s amazing having this new opportunity for girls in Florida to engage in sports together and to meet outstanding women in tennis, who are pushing our sport toward a more equitable future.”
When it comes to coaching, USTA Florida continues to host its Community Coach Program Trainings, which see women come out on every occasion. With the influx of players coming to tennis, there is a need for coaches and USTA Florida wants to see a diverse group of coaches, especially women, take charge in a space that is dominated by men. Over 60% of pro coaches are male, and USTA Florida is thrilled to lead this progress.
While these coaches may not get into pro tennis and stay at the grassroots level, it shows young girls that anything is possible if they put their minds to it. One woman who has done that is Team USA Tennis Coach and USTA Florida Hall of Fame awardee, Kathy Rinaldi, who was a former Top 10 player, turned coach. She saw the importance of being there for girls of all ages and helping them grow on and off the court. Rinaldi shares her experiences with players and is a great role model to all.
Over in Jacksonville, Terri Florio is the Executive Director of the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation and has been in her role since 1996. The MaliVai Foundation is part of the USTA National Junior Tennis & Learning Network (NJTL) and helps countless children succeed in the classroom and on the tennis court. Florio has played a massive role in this and was inducted into the USTA Florida Hall of Fame in 2022 for her work.
Inspiring, representing and recruiting women in tennis has become a key growth area for the Florida community, especially when it comes to growth in Florida. The organization continues to encourage everyone to get involved with the sport, but importantly, wants to celebrate the women and girls who are making a difference in this wonderful game.
Molly Zimmer, USTA Florida Tennis Service Representative loves to be playing a big role in growing the sport for girls and women everywhere. “I am extremely proud and humbled to be a part of team that identifies opportunities to support female athletes of all ages and skill level in our community,” she said.
For more information, visit ustaflorida.com/women-in-tennis to learn more about USTA Florida’s efforts to support, elevate and attract diverse women to all aspects of the tennis industry in Florida.