Middle States

Player, Coach, Volunteer: The Inspiring Career of Ann Koger

Each year, Black History Month brings us stories of trailblazers who displayed courage and inspired change. 


Those connected to tennis in the northeast should already know the name Ann Koger. But even those who know her well are often surprised at her impact on the Black tennis community and the sport as a whole.


An influential and record-breaking coach at Haverford College, it can all be traced back to her roots in Baltimore. There, tennis was a family sport, as she recently described in an interview with Baltimore Magazine.


“My mother, Myrtle, was an avid tennis player and we lived near Druid Hill Park, so my three sisters and I grew up playing,” she said. “She joined the Baltimore Tennis Club, whose history people should look up. They were doctors, lawyers, and educators who offered lessons and they put together a program to develop juniors and organized tournaments.”


Playing at Druid Hill Park isn’t something Koger took for granted. Back in 1948, her mother and several members at Baltimore Tennis Club protested the segregation of the courts. Despite pushback from police and even arrests, the city eventually opened the courts.

Koger was hooked on tennis. Pretty good at it, too. She won her first tournament at 12 and looked for her junior career to take off. She and her sisters, Patricia and Carol, were among the first Black tennis stars in the region. But as Koger describes in the recent Baltimore Magazine piece, discrimination was still all-too-common as she made her way through the junior ranks. Black players were frequently put into the same brackets to prevent them from advancing too far in the events, and even at public facilities, they often had to wait for white players to clear out before stepping on court. 


Nothing stopped Koger, though.


She became a top-ranked junior player, and in 1968 won the American Tennis Association (ATA) National Women’s Doubles Championship. She attended Morgan State University, where she competed alongside Bonnie Logan on the men’s tennis team from 1969-72. She also was a four-year letterwinner in basketball, field hockey and volleyball.


Koger and Logan were the first Black women to represent a historically Black university in a collegiate tournament. In 1973, the duo were the first Black women to play in the Virginia Slims Tennis Circuit. 


Koger called the experience great, but lonely.

A successful professional career came next for Koger, and that eventually led to a coaching position at Haverford College that began in 1981. She coached there for 35 years, ending her college coaching career with 359 wins. During that time, she continued to serve as a champion for social justice. At one point in 2000, she and her team protested the use of the Confederate Flag by canceling a competition in South Carolina.


Somehow while coaching, Koger found time to add even more achievements to her resume. In the 1980s, she was the first woman to referee a Division I men’s basketball game, and served as co-director of the NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Championships. She became heavily involved with USTA Middle States, serving as coach for the Middle States Girls' 18s National Team. She was a member of the ITA Small College Operating Committee and the ITA Board of Directors. 


Over the years Koger’s achievements have been seemingly endless. She earned the National Community Service Award from the USTA in 1996, and was inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010. That same year, she was inducted into the Middle States Hall of Fame. She was the Professional Tennis Registry’s Coach of the Year in 2016. 


Those who know Koger best are consistent in their praise. She’s tough but kind. Demanding but understanding. Players from her college and USTA teams say she always found a way to connect with her players and get the best out of them. She has stories and experiences that could fill book after book.


Koger is one of the many trailblazers featured by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in its digital Breaking Barriers exhibition. The exhibition showcases ATA and Black Tennis Pioneers all over the world.

Cruise Control Gear has joined USTA Middle States in sponsoring our Unstoppable Women in Tennis series, highlighting the incredibly strong women who are forces on and off the court in our Middle States community. 

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