Celebrating Black History Month
Burton Breaking Barriers
USTA Midwest | February 22, 2018
Michele Hurst Burton is breaking barriers as the first African American to serve as a District Executive Director within the USTA/Midwest Section. In her role as Executive Director of the USTA Southeastern Michigan District, Burton is hoping to increase the number of people playing tennis – both adults and juniors - throughout the metro Detroit area.
“My mission is to get as many people of all ages playing tennis as I can, especially people of color or those residing in underserved communities,” said Burton. “I see tennis as a life-long sport which opens doors to education, improved emotional, mental and physical health and lasting friendships.”
Under her leadership, the USTA Southeastern Michigan District is working to partner with local Community Tennis Associations (CTAs) and develop a strategy for bringing tennis into communities where tennis is not normally played or even taught. This includes working closely with local schools.ADVERTISEMENT
“Unfortunately, many school districts in these communities have opted to discontinue support for tennis,” said Burton. “I am actively working with CTAs to re-introduce tennis into elementary and middle schools. I believe we must build up a demand for tennis in these areas so the schools have no choice but to reinstate tennis programs.”
Burton sees tennis as another vehicle she can use to make a positive impact on youth. She has already been working with youth in her community as a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Detroit Alumnae Chapter. She has served as a facilitator or advisor for the New Detroit Camp Enterprise business competition for high school students, for the Delta G.E.M.S. program for high school girls and for the Delta Betty Shabazz Academy for middle school girls.
Burton’s love for tennis started at age 18, proving that anyone can pick up the sport at any time! She was a basketball player through high school and didn’t start playing tennis until an aunt of hers – who loved the game – bought her a racket.
“I finally accepted that there was no place in college basketball for a 5’5” power forward!” Burton jokes. But after she received her first racquet she decided to give it a try. “I was attracted to the sport because the movement and hand-eye coordination are similar skills I developed playing basketball. Later, I discovered USTA Leagues and I have been hooked ever since!”
Burton says she loves tennis for many reasons but focuses on the fitness and friendship aspects. “I have been fortunate to develop many life-long friends through my involvement in tennis. It has been my ultimate stress-reliever and is the one fitness activity I maintain.”
One of Burton’s favorite tennis memories is when her 2.5 team advanced to the Midwest Sectional Championships. Her second favorite is when she was offered the Executive Director position.
“It’s such a blessing to work in the field of your passion. I wake up every day excited and ready to help promote and grow the sport of tennis,” she said.
Burton was born and raised in Detroit. She earned her Master’s in Business Administration from Wayne State University. She began her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and later transferred to the University of Detroit Mercy where she earned a B.S. in Accounting. She is a long-time USTA member who played on USTA League teams throughout the Detroit area and in Chicago.