November 11th, 2019

USTA Florida President’s Message: New Tennis Leadership Academy

General News

By Clark Higgs, USTA Florida volunteer president

In September USTA Florida announced the launch of its new Leadership Academy, a culmination of a Volunteer Engagement Initiative that began during Robert Hollis’ presidential term in 2017.

The brainchild of Laura Bowen, USTA Florida executive director since March 2018, its purpose is to help our volunteers develop professional and leadership skills, help the association champion diversity in the tennis industry, and recruit a new generation of volunteers to help achieve the USTA Florida mission, “To promote and develop the game of tennis for all.”

It has become clear over the past several years that the characteristics, interests, and means of serving the tennis community are changing as quickly as the nature of each succeeding generation. As a result, we have determined that we have to change the way we recruit, recognize and reward these new, young volunteers.

Jasmine Baptiste-Apena, USTA Florida volunteer engagement coordinator, has taken the lead on creating the academy with the assistance of several of her office teammates and volunteers. Selection for the academy will be based on several criteria such as being passionate about growing the organization and the game, an interest in the sports industry, business and/or fundraising knowledge, and diversity and technology know-how. Applicants must be 18 years of age, permanent residents of Florida, from any profession and educational background, and a tennis background is not required.

Participants will receive training in several areas, including communication and collaboration, self-awareness and self-management, strategic planning, financial oversight and fundraising, and advocacy and civic engagement. The first “class” of candidates who were selected in the fall will receive online and in-person training over the following six months and will “graduate” in May 2020.

We hope that this leadership academy will not only assist in finding new volunteers and prospective board members for USTA Florida, but that it will develop the participants to contribute to other organizations in their local communities for the common good.

In Memoriam — We would like to recognize Brian Sakey, a long-time USPTA teaching pro at the Roger Scott Tennis Center, who passed away on Sept. 4, 2019. Brian was laid to rest in Pensacola where he had taught since 1984. He is survived by his wife Rhonda and children Brock, Ross, Kelly Sakey and Noah Barnes.

He is remembered by this quote: “Stay positive, inspire a young person and keep playing on your front foot mate!” Words that we should all live.  He will be dearly missed.

I will look forward to seeing you on the courts this winter!