The 2013 Tennis Development Workshop, held this year in Denver, took time to celebrate those grass-roots heroes and organizations that have gone above and beyond to make the game accessible to everyone. Here is a look at this year’s honorees (click links for video):
Adaptive Tennis National Community Service Award: Omaha Tennis Buddies
Established in 2005, Omaha Tennis Buddies is a program that provides year-round training opportunities for tennis athletes with developmental and physical disabilities.
The program was built upon the summer program established by Special Olympics of Nebraska. With the help of the Omaha tennis community and under the guidance of program director Tammy Hill, Tennis Buddies provides additional training and resources throughout the year, fostering competitive tennis opportunities, friendships and social networks for players of all ages with special needs. The program also makes sure family members of the athletes are included in all competitive and social events.
“Tammy Hill and the Omaha Tennis Buddies are dedicated to ensuring that everyone with special needs has the opportunity to participate in a meaningful tennis experience,” said Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. “We are proud to acknowledge their efforts with this award.”
Eve F. Kraft Community Service Award: Celia Rehm
Celia Rehm has played an integral part in the development of numerous community initiatives since 1991, resulting in the substantial growth of tennis in Jacksonville. She has been involved with USTA League Tennis, USTA Jr. Team Tennis, Community Tennis Association development, Tennis in the Parks, 10 and Under Tennis and much more.
An avid tennis player, Rehm is a member of the USTA Florida Board of Directors and serves on several committees. In addition, since 2010 she has served as the president of the Jacksonville Youth Tennis Association.
“It is hard to imagine tennis in Jacksonville without her tireless dedication, hard work and leadership,” said Lynne Salus, USTA Florida volunteer manager and meeting planner. “Celia is the perfect example of a passionate volunteer who makes a difference in her community each and every day.”
Janet Louer USTA Jr. Team Tennis Organizer of the Year: Heidi Stryker
Heidi Stryker started Jr. Team Tennis programs in the Irvine, Calif., area 13 years ago with 66 teams per season. She currently has 191 and 175 teams participating in the spring and fall leagues, respectively, and her program has experienced an increase in participation of 370 players from 2011 to 2012.
In all, last year Stryker oversaw the coordination of 380 Jr. Team Tennis teams in the Irvine area.
“Heidi was the first to offer 10 and Under [Tennis] Play Days in Irvine to get novice kids involved in tennis,” said Ken Grassel, USTA team tennis coordinator for the Southern California Tennis Association. “She works with local parks and recreation departments to increase the number of court time and space needed for the programs in Orange County. Heidi is basically a CTA all on her own with all that she coordinates in her area for juniors, adults and seniors.”
National Community Tennis Association of the Year: Savannah Area Tennis Association
The Savannah Area Tennis Association this past year celebrated 25 years of service to the community. The association promotes tennis as a lifetime sport that can combat a range of health issues related to a sedentary lifestyle, offering a wide array of USTA leagues and programs.
Also, in the past 10 years the Savannah Area Tennis Association has hosted the USTA Georgia State Championships 55- and 65-and-over senior tournament.
“We are just thrilled to receive this award,” said Leslie Shields, the association’s community tennis director. “From our schools program to wheelchair tennis, we have continued to provide tennis opportunities to the residents of Savannah and will continue to do so.”
National Junior Tennis & Learning Chapters of the Year: A’s & Aces, Prince George’s Tennis & Education Foundation, Olivencia Tennis
The USTA recognizes chapters and programs in three different budget levels to reward those organizations that enhance children’s lives through tennis and education. The 2013 USTA/NJTL Chapters of the Year and their corresponding budget levels are: A’s & Aces, New Orleans ($500,000 and over); Prince George’s Tennis & Education Foundation, Prince George’s County, Md. ($50,000-500,000); and Olivencia Tennis, San Sebastian, Puerto Rico (less than $50,000).
Since 2008, A’s & Aces has been implementing its mission “to provide academic assistance, life skills and tennis for New Orleans public school children.” The organization’s name was chosen to represent the student-athlete model and the group’s emphasis on good grades and good tennis. A’s & Aces now impacts more than 750 children in its in-school, after-school and weekend programs each week throughout the academic year as well as in three summer camps.
Prince George’s Tennis and Education Foundation, whose mission is to provide tennis and life skills to the children of Prince George County, Md., has thrived since its introduction more than 20 years ago. Through hard work and fundraising, foundation leader Brenda Gilmore and her team have introduced tennis to more than 30,000 children across Prince George’s County through its junior outreach program, offering most students special assistance dependent upon their needs and ability.
In 2008, Olivencia Tennis became an NJTL chapter and started to fulfill one of its goals: an opportunity to impact students through tennis and education. Olivencia Tennis now impacts more than 70 children in its in-school, after-school and weekend programs each week throughout the academic year. With two full time staff and more than 10 regular volunteers throughout the school year, Olivencia Tennis is able to address children’s individual needs.
Trainer of the Year: Bill Phillips
Phillips began teaching tennis while in the U.S. Air Force 40 years ago. Since that time he has served in a wide variety of roles as a teacher, leader and coach, including as community coordinator and director of community development for USTA Louisiana, as president of USPTA Louisiana, as president of the USPTA Southern Division and, currently, as the regional vice president for USPTA Southern Division. He also serves as chairman of USPTA’s 10 and Under Tennis Committee.
On top of that, Phillips said the most rewarding job in tennis he’s held has been to be the tennis service representative for USTA Southern, covering the state of Louisiana, which he has done for the past eight years.
“It’s truly an honor to win the award,” Phillips said. “To look over the list of some of the past winners like Butch Staples, Rita Gladstone, Tom Fey and Mike Carter, people I respect and look up, it truly feels great to be mentioned alongside them.”
To find yourself in the game or to tell us what you love about tennis, visit the USTA Testimonial