December 22nd, 2020

USTA Florida President’s Message: We Grew Stronger

General News

It is highly unlikely that you could meet anyone that has not, in some way, been affected by the pandemic in 2020. Whether it be the illness itself, business interruption, or lifestyle interruption, we have learned new ways to communicate while following the safety protocols.

The issues that are facing USTA Florida and the primary questions are (1) how do we stay relevant; (2) how do we continue to serve the players; (3) how can we engage and help the providers; and (4) how do we maintain our volunteer base and continue to grow in that area all while maintaining a social distance?

USTA Florida was well equipped with the technology capabilities that it had in place prior to the pandemic. The Board of Directors had, over the last couple of years, agreed to invest to upgrade the technology within the organization. With the new technology in place, we were well prepared to embrace the challenge of only being able to reach our community through digital platforms.

The ingenuity and creativity of USTA Florida staff,  providers and tennis community was apparent during the shutdown. Through the Here to Serve Podcast, we received practical advice such as how to return to play safely, along with introducing new initiatives, for example, Amplify, to advance racial equality in tennis. I encourage you to listen to podcast subjects that interest you.

The Leadership Academy members were able to complete their education virtually, along with graduation thru the efforts of Jasmine Baptiste, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator.

Through Instagram and Facebook, we were amused by various videos that were submitted as to how people were practicing at home during the pandemic. It was inspiring to see families “playing” the sport whether it be on their street, in their driveway, or practicing a swing in their living room. Everywhere I turned, USTA Florida was continuing to show me that the enthusiasm and love of the game throughout our community was as strong as ever even during the pandemic.

Upon reopening, Christine Ducey, staff director of Adult Tennis, and Jason Gilbert, staff director of Junior Tennis both shared that technology already in place at USTA Florida provided their teams with the opportunity to hold the tournaments and turn a pencil to paper process into a digital process at no additional cost to the organization. With input from Jason Ontog, from Tennessee, and Maria Cercone of Georgia,   the events have been running with a virtual tournament desk. The players are notified of their opponent and court assignment, through the digital platform. The players can walk directly to their courts and scores are submitted via text and confirmation of the score is sent to the player. The feedback from the teams, parents and players has been extremely positive with a request that the tournaments continue to be run through this virtual platform, regardless of the pandemic.

The Board has continued to meet throughout the year using the Microsoft Teams virtual platform.  Our obligations to the organization have proceeded seamlessly with the virtual meetings. In addition, committees have the opportunity to use the Microsoft Teams app. Certainly, we would like to be meeting in person but the Teams app provided the opportunity to discuss at length the challenges that we were facing, along with continuing to introduce new initiatives moving into 2021, as to how best to serve the players, providers, and volunteers and introduce the game to as diverse a population as possible.

We are introducing the USTA Florida app.  Not only does it have information about the organization, where you can play,  but also information from providers, and opportunities to volunteer at a location near you. 

I know that we are all looking forward to 2021 but it seems that even during 2020 we improved in many ways as an organization. I personally believe that we grew stronger in our reliance on one another, our ability to inspire and motivate each other, towards our common mission to truly change lives through tennis.

– Dana Andrews