What were your plans for 2020? Was it to play in your first tennis league competition or wheelchair competition, take your child to his or her first junior tennis tournament, play on your school’s tennis team, participate in junior team tennis or continue to improve your game competing against your friends at your local park or club? By March 2020 we unfortunately started to see the nets come down, the tournaments canceled, and clubs closed. Rather than trying out that new racquet, we started to try out different face masks, work on some home improvements and refine our cooking skills!
Although I understand that it may seem that everything around us came to a standstill, I can tell you that USTA Florida continued to move forward and work hard for the sport and organization.
Due to the diligence and “never say die attitude” of the organization we have been able to show on a global level that the USTA could safely and successfully hold the US Open and on a sectional level we have held several league events at the National Campus and are anticipating more events for all adults and juniors through the end of the year. Our USTA Florida-managed facilities also reopened and are running programs.
Although many of us would like to move on from 2020, I think it is important that we highlight the ingenuity, adaptability and flexibility of our organization over the last few months that has now put us in a position to be back out on the courts. I applaud the USTA Florida staff for its ongoing communication with the players. Podcasts were utilized to inform about the status of various programs and safety protocols for when the players would return to the courts. The podcasts also provided insight into the staff and volunteers and how they became involved in the sport and the organization. We were inspired with the podcast featuring Mal Washington and the work his foundation is doing in Jacksonville, along with introducing USTA Florida’s Amplify initiative, to advance racial equality in tennis. There was a feature on the USTA Florida Section Foundation highlighting the importance of its ability to provide grants so tennis can be enjoyed by all communities.
The volunteers worked right alongside the staff. Whether it be providing information regarding a Volunteer of the Month, giving input as to how certain programs will run during a pandemic or just an encouraging word, COVID did not stop the tennis dialogue!
We were also blessed to have Clark Higgs as our President. Calm, decisive, fair and always willing to listen, he was the right person at the right time to be at the helm. His #1 priority was “what is best for the organization.”
As incoming president of USTA Florida, I am humbled and inspired by the tenaciousness of our staff and volunteers. As we begin to form strategic priorities for the next term, the sense of enthusiasm and willingness to serve by the volunteers and skill set of the staff under Laura Bowen as Executive Director will continue to bless the organization for years to come.
So where do we go from here? In our opinion, there are many opportunities on the horizon to promote and grow the lifetime sport of tennis. Through various studies, it has already been recognized as a low-risk activity. As an organization, we want to make a conscious effort that we are meeting the needs and serving all existing and potential players. For instance, some of the goals for this new term are to position tennis as a low-cost, safe option for recreation; provide more wheelchair play opportunities; deliver more opportunities for adults and youths to play the sport at our public parks; and deliver more opportunities in diverse communities. We understand that some may see these as “unattainable”, but Florida has always been the section to lead the way and we are certainly not stopping now!
On a personal note as some of you may know my father, B.A. Grubbs, has served as president for USTA Florida. I humbly accept this position and certainly hope to make my Dad proud! I shared with the Board a statement he said to me in the last few months. Although his memory is not what it used to be, he always loves to hear about what USTA Florida is doing and pursuing to grow the game. I was telling him about an upcoming board meeting that was going to take place on a Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I may not have been as enthusiastic about the meeting as he thought I should be. He gave me a quote that I am going to keep at the forefront and as a reminder to me and the organization throughout my term. His words, not mine: “My hours I put in were secondary to the enjoyment I got out of it”.