Lielanie Steers (center) with Jessica Pegula (left) and eventual champion Maria Sanchez prior to the Sacramento singles final.
© Rob Vomund
Lielanie Steers is the owner and founder of Freight Solution Providers (FSP), one of the largest female minority-owned freight companies in the country, based in Sacramento, Calif. Steers, a tennis enthusiast and captain of many league teams, brought a women's USTA Pro Circuit tournament to her hometown for the first time earlier this month, when she sponsored the $50,000 FSP Gold River Women's Challenger in Sacramento from May 28-June 3. Steers, who is featured as the USTA Pro Circuit Spotlight for June, recently spoke to USTA.com about her experience as tournament sponsor, what inspired her to host the event, her love of tennis and more.
USTA.com: How was your first experience sponsoring a USTA Pro Circuit event? Was it everything you hoped and expected it to be?
Lielanie Steers: Yes. It was very exciting just seeing the young women compete and, most importantly, how professional, friendly and responsive they are, especially to the kids. It definitely met and exceeded my expectations.
USTA.com: What was the high point of the event for you? Were there any challenges?
Lielanie Steers: Fortunately for me, it was always a high point -- no lows. Being the first USTA Pro Circuit women's event at Gold River, it was actually handled very well.
USTA.com: What was your role at the event?
Lielanie Steers: I said yes to sponsoring, wrote the check and listened to their ideas, which were in line with mine, so it was a pretty easy role.
USTA.com: What inspired you to sponsor a USTA Pro Circuit women’s event? Was it something you had thought about doing for a while?
Lielanie Steers: The first time I actually got fully involved was in 2007. It was a Futures event, and one of the players and the champion was John Isner at the Millennium Sports Club in El Dorado Hills. Then I sponsored other events, including local events, but didn't really think much of a bigger key sponsorship until I was told that it was the women's circuit, and that got my attention. Who could say no to that?
What is inspiring for me is listening to some of the players' stories -- where some of them came from and the hardships they've overcome in life to accomplish their dreams. Tennis is a game of unknowns, as we all know. What I like about it is the continual challenge that it gives us. Watching our fine young men and women and hopefully helping them accomplish that is rewarding.
USTA.com: What did you hope the partnership would bring to your business? To you personally?
Lielanie Steers: When I said "yes" to the sponsorship, I didn't really think about the benefit it would bring to my business and to me personally. It was about my love of the game and commitment to making it succeed in any way I can. It's about the people, really. When I do things like sponsorship or helping kids and adults get better, it is really about them. I don't think too much about myself and how I will be perceived. It's about feeling good inside and feeling proud that I surround myself with some of the finest people in the world. Wouldn't trade it for anything.
USTA.com: Have you received any feedback from the community or your clients? If so, what kind?
Lielanie Steers: No feedback from clients (most of my clients are based out of California.) Community, definitely. They're very thankful and excited for next year. That's rewarding.
USTA.com: Do you plan to continue your affiliation with the tournament in the future?
Lielanie Steers: Yes, I will do it as long as they want.
USTA.com: Other than sponsoring this tournament, have you been involved in tennis in any other ways? Do you play yourself? If so, when did you get started and how often do you play now?
Lielanie Steers: I started captaining in 2001 and have captained different levels since then. This year, I've been a captain at a number of levels -- 4.0, 4.5, 3.0s, 8.5 combo, mixed, you name it. I love captaining different levels just because I love the game so much and love the people that I have on the team in every level. My biggest pride and joy is captaining the 2.5s in 2009, and most of them are in the 3.0s now that I'm captaining. It's rewarding and exciting to watch their tennis skills develop.
I started sponsoring the Indoor 30s last year and will continue to do that. It's the fun that I have from doing it. I don't usually do anything that I feel is boring, and so far, so good.
Yes, I play every day. Monday, three hours; Tuesday, 4 1/2 hours; Wednesday, 1 1/2 hours. And Thursday and Friday. Yes, I'm an addict.