By Tamara Ramos, USTA.com
- Welcoming players and recording scores at the USTA League Super Senior National Championship
is volunteer, Elaine Viebranz
. One of the first league coordinators who, nearly 30 years ago, got the national USTA League off the ground.
National League Event Manager, Jeanne Lucido, asked Elaine for her help at the Super Senior Nationals because as a lifelong USTA volunteer, she certainly knows how to run a league event.
“She relates to these players. She has relationships with many of them and she’s still so vital,” Jeanne added. “Our super seniors see Elaine working the tournament at 83 and hopefully they can see themselves giving back to tennis well into their 80s. And we have a lot of fun here! This gives us a chance to say thank you to Elaine for all of her years of service.”
Elaine started playing tennis with friends at age 11, at a club outside New York City. Elaine played socially and in club leagues through the mid-60s when she suffered from tennis elbow which ended her own tennis play. A mother of four, her oldest daughter was a ranked junior.
With her kids playing tennis, Elaine started volunteering along with the late Barbara Williams in Westchester County, setting up junior leagues in the metropolitan area.
In 1980, USTA took the Southern Section league pilot league program national. As the volunteer coordinator for the Eastern Section, Elaine got the call from USTA National, “We’re starting this little program and we’d like you to implement it in your section.” With only 250 league players the first year, she never looked back.
Elaine was an obvious choice to join the National League Committee in 1981 which she co-chaired for 11 years. With her good friend, Yvonne Garton as Chair, and Dave Schobel, Director of Competitive Play, the three of them got the national program off the ground. Regulations, ratings, national sponsors all had to be initiated. The three worked well together for over 15 years, recognizing the importance of continuity in the early years of the program.
Elaine worked the very first National League Championship with sponsor Michelob Light.
“We had only three levels at the time, Michelob paid for absolutely everything for the players,” said Viebranz. “It was quite an event! We established the league program with a small group of staff and volunteers. We all knew each other personally. We all enjoyed it so much that we stayed with the program for a long time. I look back and am very proud to have had a part in something that has become so big.”
Elaine took over as National League chair person in 1994 through 1996. Throughout this time she served on a variety of other national and Eastern section committees. She was the Eastern Section President, was one of the first to work with US Open volunteers, opening up a variety of new opportunities.
In 2000, she retired from all National committees and volunteer positions. “I wanted people to ask, where did Elaine go, not when is she ever going to leave?”
Elaine was presented the Samuel Hardy Award In 2005, recognizing her long and outstanding service to tennis.
“My husband always called me a professional volunteer, he understood and respected what I was doing.”
He died just prior to the award ceremony at the USTA Annual meeting. It was emotional, but Elaine’s children and longtime USTA friends were with her. Sheila Banks, who as Section League Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest Section, has worked with Elaine for over 30 years and considers her a loyal friend.
“Elaine is a very wise, thoughtful person. Her ideas and philosophies have always focused on the player and their needs,” Banks added. “You can’t appreciate where the USTA is today without knowing the history, credit Elaine’s knowledge and leadership for making USTA League the largest recreational league in the country today.”
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