In celebration of Women’s History Month, throughout March USTA Florida is celebrating all the women whose passion and presence continue to fuel the growth and success of tennis — at every level. We’re committed to supporting, elevating and attracting diverse women to all aspects of the tennis industry in Florida.

An enthusiast and active volunteer in the Pensacola area, Kathy Ross didn’t start playing tennis regularly until later in life. Now, her enjoyment of the sport has driven her volunteerism with Special Olympics, Love Serving Autism and USTA Florida’s Love to Learn and Love to Play beginner programs.

Kathy Ross

When did you first pick up a racquet and how did you get your start in the sport?

I took a beginner and intermediate tennis class in college and enjoyed playing but did not take the time to pursue anything further. 23 years later, my brother signed up for a beginner tennis class looking for a way to get active. My husband and I decided to take the class also looking for an activity that we could do together.  Due to an injury and health, my husband was not able to continue but he was very supportive of my interest in continuing to learn and play.

How did you first get involved with USTA Florida’s Love to Learn/Love to Play programs, and for how long have you been involved?

My sister has been a participant in Special Olympics for many years. About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to find a way to get involved and started volunteering with Special Olympics tennis. Rita Dotson asked if I would also be interested in helping with some of the other programs that needed volunteers. One of those programs was the Love to Learn/Love to Play program.

What has your experience as a Love to Learn/Love to Play Ambassador been like?

This experience has been very rewarding. I have the opportunity to teach something that I love doing to others. I have met several new tennis players and have been able to help them take the next steps in getting more involved with playing in leagues and connecting with other tennis players. I love being able to help adults of all ages see that they can learn this sport at any age in life.

Why do you believe it is important to introduce new players to tennis?

Learning to play tennis can be a little overwhelming in knowing where to start and if it’s even worth the effort to learn. This program is a great method of introducing the sport in a fun way and being able to meet other new players. Learning the basics in both technic and rules helps to make the transition to playing in leagues much smoother.

What made you want to volunteer in tennis?

I love the sport of tennis and I love helping/teaching.

Why is it important to volunteer?

Every program runs much smoother with volunteers that can help take the load off of those in charge. I have been in charge of programs and appreciate the volunteers that choose to be there and help.

It’s known there aren’t many women in positions of sports leadership across the country – why does that need to change?

Women can bring a fresh perspective with methods of motivation and training. Women inspire teamwork while being able to stay focused on individual needs.

What do you think women bring to the tennis-teaching profession that makes them a valuable asset to tennis clubs/facilities?

Each person learns and responds to different styles of teaching. When a facility has both men and women teaching, this provides many more options for all players.

What do you think we as an industry can do to bring more women into those roles?

Highlighting successful women in leadership. Providing training opportunities.

Why are women the key to tennis growth and how do we reach them?

Women are more likely to bring others along with them and provide a calming atmosphere. Providing fun programs and events for all levels is a way to reach them.

What advice would you give to other women who may be hesitant to take the leap to a higher-level position?

Be confident in knowing that you are capable of being a leader. Others will benefit from your experience and knowledge. Don’t be afraid to stretch and challenge yourself.

For more inspiring features on women in Florida tennis, click here, and be sure to follow @ustaflorida on social media throughout the month of March.