The USTA Florida Section announced this week that the Volunteer Aces program, which aims to utilize new technology tools and community outreach opportunities to help mobilize and retain the organization’s volunteers, is officially up and running. 

Charting the course for the next 70 years seems like a daunting task, but for USTA Florida, it’s all about going back to its roots. The organization was founded by four volunteers in 1949, and since then, it has been volunteer-run and has benefitted from its extensive and loyal volunteer group. During the last decade or more, USTA Florida recognized it had not aggressively pursued new volunteers and as a result, relied heavily on the same volunteers. With the success of the organization being dependent on those volunteers who give their time and share their passion for tennis, the organization knew volunteers needed to be made a priority in 2020.

Throughout 2019, USTA Florida developed a Volunteer Recruitment and Engagement Program, aimed to bring new, diverse volunteers into the section while also increasing engagement of current volunteers at the local and section level. 

“The reason why it’s important to bring in new leaders and volunteers is twofold really, I don’t think any of us could really be sitting here if somebody didn’t reach out to us, invite us in, mentor us, and help us grow and develop,” said USTA Florida Executive Director Laura Bowen. “I certainly wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for some of our longtime leaders who’ve mentored me and really encouraged and supported me, so I feel it’s my obligation to say how do we mentor and support others and bring them into the organization.”

The Volunteer Aces program is designed to be a clearinghouse for all tennis volunteer opportunities in the state, not just USTA Florida programs. The initiative is intended to improve the organization’s overall engagement with volunteers by focusing on three areas: recruitment, retention, and recognition. USTA Florida will work alongside other organizations to post all tennis volunteer opportunities in a single location, an online platform, that can also be accessed from the mobile MyImpact App.

“With the new app and technology, we now have a more efficient way to communicate with volunteers,” said USTA Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Jasmine Baptiste-Apena. “This app is also easier to use, so in a sense, we’re breaking down a lot of those barriers from the past that made it more difficult for us to engage with volunteers.”

Prospective volunteers only need to register once to be able to see every volunteer opportunity in their area. Project leaders will then use the system to track, recognize and reward volunteers for serving; and training is offered to all Volunteer Aces interested in working with youth, adult beginner, or other special programs.

“Being that we’re USTA Florida, people hear ‘tennis’ and if you’re not a tennis player you may be a little intimidated,” explained Baptiste-Apena. “That is one of the main issues we want to overcome with this program. We want to give people who may not be active in tennis an opportunity to interact with people who are in our community and see that we are about more than just the courts. We want to be active; we want to be involved and engaged.”

No tennis experience is necessary to become a Volunteer Ace for USTA Florida. Volunteers can sign-up by visiting ustaflorida.com/VolunteerAces.

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