April 19th, 2023

USTA Florida Hosted All-Girls Camp Featuring Billie Jean King, Jessica Pegula & Others

Community Tennis News Women in Tennis

USTA Florida hosted its second-ever All-Girls Camp at the Delray Beach Tennis Center on April 14 and 15 in conjunction with the 2023 Billie Jean King Cup. 

Dana Andrews, USTA Florida’s Immediate Past President was thrilled with the outcome of the first camp, which was held in 2022, and has been looking forward to having these experiences for young girls return this year. “We learned a lot from the girls sharing how much it meant to them and seeing that it was a safe place for them,” she said. “Having the female coaches was significant, and so we said, ‘were going to tackle 2023 and do four of them.’”  

USTA Florida has committed to hosting at least four All-Girl Camps in 2023.

The first camp of the year took place on Friday, April 14, girls aged 6 to 16 came together with women coaches from around the state for an All-Girls Camp. At the camp, girls were given level-specific coaching and educated on the history of women in tennis. The educational sessions were preparation for the Champions of Equality Luncheon that featured tennis icon Billie Jean King, Coco Gauff’s grandmother and community leader, Yvonne Odom, and Tori Burch COO, Gabrielle McGee. Girls were able to ask their questions of the inspirational panel.  

Billie Jean King gave the girls  insight into her journey in tennis and shared how her friend Susan Williams was the reason for her becoming the tennis icon she is today. King said that Susan invited her out to play at a public park and after her second time playing, she went to her mom and told her, “Mommy, mommy, I know what I want to do with my life. I want to be the number one tennis player in the world.” Billie Jean King credits Susan and her parents guidance for what  her life has become today. 

Billie Jean King (Left), Gabrielle McGee (Middle), Yvonne Odom (Right) spoke on a panel at a luncheon.

Gauff’s grandmother, Yvonne, also gave a powerful message to the girls in attendance. She was the first Black student to integrate into a Delray Beach school, as she attended Seacrest High School in 1961. “I spent three years there, the first year I was the only African-American student, but I made it a point to go to everything,” she said. “If I’m going to integrate, I’m to integrate.” 

Things weren’t easy for her, because on top of being the only person of color in the school, she was a female athlete. Her principal didn’t put her in a P.E. class because she was judged based on her gender but she pushed and pushed until she eventually got into one after an entire semester. 

Her closing thoughts were really powerful and certainly left an impact on everyone in attendance. “Equity is something that if you can get past my skin color, I can’t change it and I embrace it. But I always say, get to know me, if you don’t like me, I’m ok with that, but just don’t take a look at me and make a decision that I don’t like this person,” she said. 

The girls were able to learn from women coaches, speakers, and leader within the tennis industry.

The camp also had a lasting impact on families who traveled from across the state so their daughters could attend. One mom in particular, Tanisha White, overcame a lot of adversity so her six-year-old daughter, Ava, could be there. 

Tanisha had everything planned out, and the Pensacola residents were ready to fly into South Florida for the weekend. However, Fort Lauderdale airport was shut down due to major flooding. “We had to make a quick decision, I already knew the history of Billie Jean King and what she has already done for women’s tennis and her just being an icon. I just knew this was the right thing for my daughter,” she said. “Within a moment’s notice, my husband and I packed our vehicle and drove nine and a half hours down here.”  

Ava and her parents were super excited to be able to make the camp especially after running into some travel issues.

Girls have been fighting for equality, especially in sports, and in 1972 Title IX was the first thing that really propelled that. “Title IX opened the door for women to participate in sports, you just appreciate it more when a person Billie Jean King steps out and takes a risk and unites all the women in tennis to make a change,” Tanisha said. “I knew having Ava in this space and build relationships and understand there are people that look like her, women that are great at the sport, it was the right thing to do.” 

The camp was also had appearances by Billie Jean King Cup Team USA Captain Kathy Rinaldi and top American player, Jessica Pegula, who spent some time with the girls and gave them words of encouragement and empowerment to use on and off the court. 

In March, USTA Florida expanded on its Women in Tennis initiative, part of that including four all-girl camps throughout 2023. With the first one in the books and selling out instantly, you’ll want to make sure you check our calendar for the next one, happening this summer! To read more about USTA Florida’s efforts in growing women in tennis visit ustaflorida.com/women-in-tennis.