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Grass-Roots Heroes

March 20, 2013 12:21 PM
Tennis grows strongest at its grass roots, which is why every year at the Annual Meeting, the USTA celebrates those who have helped to grow and develop the sport in their community. This year’s local heroes came from all backgrounds and all sections – a 90-year-old from Rehoboth, Mass.; a Paralympian from Loa, Utah; an entire family from Idaho; just to name a few – to be recognized for their outstanding dedication to growing tennis at a local level.
Meet the 2012 USTA Annual Award honorees:
Skip Hartman: NJTL Founders’ Service Award
Lewis (Skip) Hartman is considered an honorary founding father of the NJTL program, having devoted more than 40 years to growing NJTLs both in New York City and throughout the country. So it was only fitting that Hartman, of Woodside, N.Y., was the recipient of this year’s NJTL Founders’ Service Award, which has been awarded annually over the last three years to a person who best reflects the values of NJTL founders Arthur Ashe, Charles Pasarell and Sheridan Snyder.
Hartman helped transform New York Junior Tennis & Learning from primarily a summer program to program that now offers tennis to more than 100,000 youngsters on 620 tennis courts, in more than 300 schoolyards, parks, playgrounds and Housing Authority sites in New York. Since 1970, he has helped NYJTL raise more than $100 million and has provided organizational and administrative leadership in the implementation of no-fee programs.
Throughout his career, Hartman has participated in several USTA strategic planning efforts and has served on many national USTA committees, and he has been recognized by the USTA and the International Tennis Hall of Fame for his innovative work in developing a number of major USTA programs.
"It is an honor to receive this award," said Hartman. "Helping develop NJTL at the national level and NYJTL in New York City have been rewarding journeys that have brought me many friends and much fulfillment."
Rick Draney: Brad Parks Award
Rick Draney of Loa, Utah, has been a pioneer in the sport of wheelchair tennis. He fought for the creation of a division for athletes with disabilities and became an instrumental figure in the introduction of the "Quad" division of tennis to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the USTA. For his dedication to improving the lives of disabled tennis players and advancing the sport of wheelchair tennis, Draney was the recipient of this year’s Brad Parks Award, which was established in 2002 to recognize outstanding contributions to the sport of wheelchair tennis.
As a quad player, Draney had a stellar career, climbing to No. 1 in the world and winning several US Open titles in both singles and doubles. He was a member of two World Team Cup championship teams, playing on the U.S. Quad team in 1998 and 2003. In addition to his tennis achievements, Draney was a gold medal-winning Paralympian for the U.S. Quad rugby team in Sydney, Australia, in 2000.
Since retiring from competition, Draney has coached wheelchair tennis and has helped run the sport, working as a chairman of the Wheelchair US Open for 10 years. As a coach, Draney has dedicated his time at many camps and clinics and has given leadership lectures across the country for more than 20 years, inspiring people of all ages to go out and try the sport of tennis.
"It is an honor to be recognized by the USTA," said Draney. "Wheelchair tennis has done so much for me in my life, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to try and help others experience its benefits and rewards."
Irving Levine: Seniors’ Service Award
Irving Levine of Rehoboth, Mass., is living proof that tennis is the sport for a lifetime. A racquet first found its way into his hand at the age of 13. Now 90, Levine shows no sign of slowing down. Not only has Levine been playing the sport for 77 years, he’s been devoted to promoting the sport in his community for most of his life as well. For that, and for all he’s given back to the game, Levine received this year’s Seniors’ Service award.
Levine and his wife, Bernice, have been inspirations to their local community. In 1996, they founded the New England Senior Tennis Foundation (NESTF), an organization committed to promoting and supporting tennis among New England seniors. Levine has donated approximately $20,000 annually toward the effort and has been an active leader of the foundation, serving as a member of its board of directors. The NESTF provides year-round opportunities for seniors to play, including an international annual tournament called the Friendship Cup, which has been held for more than 40 years and features competition between teams from USTA New England and Canada.
In Rehoboth, tennis players in the community talk about Levine as a living legend. Since he’s been a local tennis tournament mainstay for eight decades, none of them are surprised when they see they’re facing the nonagenarian on the opposite side of the net. The surprise comes when he beats them.
Atlanta Community Tennis Association: Member of the Year Award
The largest Community Tennis Association serves the 40th largest city in the country. Founded in 1980 as a nonprofit organization, the Atlanta Community Tennis Association (ACTA) now reaches a record 55,000 members and offers the largest USTA adult and junior league play programs in the United States. Because of the ACTA’s outstanding service to its members and the local community, the CTA earned this year’s Member of the Year Award.
Beyond serving so many members, the ACTA has made community outreach and youth tennis part of its mission. Among other outreach programs, ACTA has started the Atlanta Youth Tennis & Education Foundation, which serves nearly 2,500 children and focuses on empowering young people to be successful through tennis and educational opportunities, including summertime tennis and after-school programs.
ACTA has also been a big supporter of 10 and Under Tennis, teaching children the basics of the game using equipment and courts sized right for them as well as hosting a 10 and Under Tennis tournament at the end of each winter and summer season.
Because of their efforts to teach tennis to children, ACTA’s base of members will surely continue grow in the coming years.
The Osborn Family: Ralph W. Westcott USTA Family of the Year
Every member of the Osborn family of four, from Boise, Idaho, has had a hand in growing the sport of tennis in their community. They have worked together to volunteer both as a family and as individuals, and for their efforts to grow and support the game, they’ve earned this year’s Ralph W. Westcott USTA Family of the Year Award.
The Osborn’s love of and commitment to the sport begins with dad and mom, Ron and Nicole Osborn. Ron works as the head tennis coach at Highland High School in Pocatello, Idaho, and has received the district award for Coach of the Year for the past two years. A member of the Idaho Tennis Association Board of Directors, he has been a driving force in completing a project to build eight new outdoor tennis courts in the city of Chubbuck.
Nicole Osborn is an active USTA League player and has served as the Area League Coordinator for the past five years. As a volunteer, she has devoted countless hours and energy to help run two community tennis programs, "Tennis 101" and "Tennis is Elementary," which offer low-cost tennis lessons for beginners.
Both Osborn daughters share their parents’ love of the game and their love for community service. Scarlett, the Osborn’s eldest daughter, has played three years of varsity high school tennis and has volunteered at the local Pocatello Community Tennis Association. Her younger sister Andrea will be a freshman at Highland High School and likely will play No. 1 singles as a freshman.
The Osborns began volunteering six years ago and are deeply involved with tennis throughout the Chubbuck/Pocatello community. They helped start the Pocatello CTA and introduced a USTA-sanctioned tournament, the Juniper Hills Open. Their dedication to playing and growing tennis together exemplifies the award’s theme that "Tennis is a Family Game."
Carol Welder: Barbara Williams Leadership Award
Carol Welder, of Austin, Texas, began volunteering 40 years ago in an effort to better her tennis skills, but what started as a personal goal quickly grew to improve the sport overall. She has become an important leader in the tennis community on both the local and national levels. Named after Barbara Williams, a longtime USTA volunteer who unselfishly gave her time and energy to promote the sport, the USTA Leadership Award recognizes a female volunteer who, through her leadership and by example, has encouraged and inspired others to become volunteers and get involved in the USTA. For her 40 years of service to the sport of tennis in the U.S., Welder was the recipient of this year’s award.
Welder began working with the USTA at the local level, where she developed an educational component of NJTL and introduced a six-week curriculum based on trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. She moved on to work at the section level, where she led an effort to promote cross-team cooperation by creating the "Buddy System," a relationship among programming and marketing departments to streamline efforts and prioritize productivity.
Welder has also served on the USTA Board of Directors, including as Vice President of the USTA for the 2011-12 term, working with the USTA Budget Committee and chairing the Audit Committee.
"Carol Welder is an enthusiastic supporter of the game, and the USTA is proud to recognize her contributions to the sport of tennis with the Barbara Williams Leadership Award," said Kurt Kamperman, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, USTA. "Her dedication has impacted children and tennis communities across the country. We are honored to commend her efforts."


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