2022 USTA Eastern Family of the Year Recipient: The Mann Family
Bill and Meagan Mann have been named USTA Eastern’s 2022 Tennis Family of the Year for their tireless work growing the sport—and in particular, the USTA Leagues program—across northern N.Y.
The Manns are relative newcomers to USTA Leagues, having only competed consistently in the last six years. But in that time they have established themselves as an integral resource for local competitive tennis opportunities. Between the two of them, Bill and Meagan captain a staggering 14 League teams and frequently offer up their support to any of their counterparts in the area.
“When a league needs a captain, everyone always knows who to call,” says Jill Pitts, USTA Eastern’s Adult League Coordinator for the Northern Region. “They are always willing to take time from their personal lives to review any recent events or new ideas. It’s hard to imagine upstate N.Y. leagues without the Manns!”
Here, Bill and Meagan talk about all their experiences growing the game in their little corner of the world.
Over the last few years you both have worked tirelessly to grow USTA Leagues in the Schenectady area. What drew you to the program in the first place?
BILL: I had my first USTA Leagues experience in 1995 when I was 24, and played until about 1999. And then I stopped for about 15 years. I got back into it by a strange happenstance. I ran into a guy who I had played with in the past, who happened to be at the same place I was. I went up to him and said hi…and that was the foundation for getting involved again.
MEAGAN: First of all, Bill is leaving out the best part with his ‘Oh, I was at the right place at the right time.’ We were at traffic court when we ran into the person that he knew. I see why he wants to omit that, but it makes it that much better. [Laughs].
What about you, Meagan? Did this also start at traffic court?
MEAGAN: I’ve only been playing for about six years. Bill always wanted to go out and hit. And well, I am the least athletic person that you'll ever meet. In high school, I didn't play softball or soccer or anything that was even remotely athletic. I bowled. [Laughs]. A local tennis club was running beginner lessons. I thought, okay, I'm going to go learn how to play tennis, so maybe if Bill wants to go out and hit, I can at least keep the rally going. And I really liked it. Bill said, "Well, you should find a team." So I played on a team, and then Bill asked how it went. And I said “I think I want to make my own team!” So I signed up for another beginner clinic and recruited all the girls in the clinic to be on a team.
Since then you’ve captained a bunch of different squads, most for which you don’t even play. What do you like about captaining?
MEAGAN: It’s really the social part of it. I captained one team and we all got to be good friends. And then I’d get asked, “Oh, do you know of a team in this division?” And if I didn’t, I’d put one together. There was this sense of community coming out of one team leading into another team. My network of tennis contacts must rival that of those at the USTA.
BILL: She has probably 300 phone numbers and email addresses of different players [in the Northern Region].
Bill, when did you first begin captaining?
BILL: I started captaining in 2019, after Meagan.
MEAGAN: I inspired him. [Laughs].
BILL: She did, no joke. I was playing on a team that had drama. Saying it out loud, adult men’s tennis drama [Laughs]. I decided one night I was going to captain my own. And I did it because I had watched Meagan do it and be successful at it for the last three years.
Do either of you have a favorite moment playing in Leagues?
BILL: I have two. One is not even for my team, but Meagan’s, when they finally made it to USTA Eastern League Sectional Championships in 2021. It was honestly one of the most enjoyable things to see. I was fortunate when I was playing back in the 1990s to get to go to sectionals a lot. And then when I came back, I was recruited on to good teams, so they went as well. I don’t want to say it became routine for me, but we always planned for it [to be a possibility]. To see Meagan break through was probably one of my favorite moments. And then another great [experience] was when I won a three-hour-and-five-minute singles match in 2016. My opponent and I became friends on the court during the match and we are friends to this day.
Meagan, you also serve on USTA Eastern’s Northern Regional Council. What is a project you’ve worked on with the council that makes you proud?
MEAGAN: In the Northern Region, we have areas that are named districts…like Utica and the surrounding towns are called District 12. I immediately thought of The Hunger Games book series and movies. And I thought it would be really awesome to have a district versus district mixed doubles tennis tournament.
BILL: You called it “Hunger Game, Set, Match,” right?
MEAGAN: Yes, that’s it. We had a lot of fun with it! We were hoping to do it the following year, and maybe expand it to all of Eastern, but then COVID happened. So we haven’t quite got back into it yet.
What has it meant to you to see a project like that come to fruition, and ultimately, to be so involved in growing tennis in your community?
MEAGAN: It’s helped with imposter syndrome. I have a hard time shaking the “Oh, I’m at the 2.5 level. Oh I’m a beginner.” So to have so many people tell me how much fun that event was, it really helped solidify for me that when it comes to tennis, I do belong, and I do have good ideas and I can make an impact. And it's led to having more events and being involved in more things to get more people out on the courts.
BILL: She also did an event called “What’s Next?” in 2019. And basically it was something to get people to understand what comes after you have your first lesson with a pro in one of the clubs. And it was incredibly successful. I mean, there's so many people that were in those events that showed up to play that are now in leagues. [Former Northern Region Council Director] George [Koh] was a little apologetic that he didn’t ask me to be on the council. And I told him, “You picked the right person in this family for that role. Meagan has all these ideas and I don’t know how she comes up with them!” It’s like we say: I hit the fuzzy yellow ball better than she does, but anything else involving tennis…that’s all her!
Photos courtesy Bill and Meagan Mann