Inspiring Future Generations to Play Tennis
In a non-pandemic year, more than 900,000 music fans attend Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI — also known to many as: The World’s Largest Music Festival.
But did you know, that while attending the Summerfest concert series, you can learn how to play tennis? Amy Richmond, a league committee member for USTA/Midwest Section and board member of the Wisconsin Tennis Association, started a tennis clinic at the annual music festival 15 years ago.
“That to me, is my greatest tennis achievement,” said Amy, who has introduced thousands of youths and adults to the game and has grown the program into a fabulous, recurring event that enlists support from hundreds of volunteers every year (pre-Covid of course).
Amy has been on Wisconsin Tennis Association’s board since 1980 and she’s served on various committees, including Ranking Committee, Marketing Committee, Scholarship Committee, and several awards committees.
“I’m also a tennis resource person for the Milwaukee Public School system right now,” Amy says.
Amy enjoys getting kids involved in tennis. However, Amy herself, didn’t play until she was 35 years old.
“I didn’t know anything about tennis until I was about 20. A friend of mine introduced me to it,” Amy says, “but I was a mother and a wife.”
Over a decade went by after Amy was introduced to the game before she picked up a racquet.
“I fell in love with it,” she explains. From that moment on, she was hooked.
For Amy, lessons at the local rec. center weren’t enough. Drills, mixers, and tournaments weren’t enough either! Once she began swinging, she became completely involved and wanted to spend a lot of her free time volunteering.
“Every chance I’d get, I was on the tennis court,” Amy says. “Hitting that first stroke and getting it over the net, I mean, I just fell in love with it. Just to be around people… and they were laughing! That’s what tennis should be about.”
What made tennis stick for Amy, was the exercise and coordination — something her family normally teased her for.
“I’m known as the klutz in the family. So it’s surprising that I don’t trip or kill myself whenever I play tennis,” Amy says.
Amy enjoys hitting the ball back and forth with anyone who asks her, and these days she’s interested in teaching her granddaughter.
“I want her to love it like I do,” Amy explains. “You just meet so many different people and some of my best friends are opponents I used to play against.”
One of those friendly competitors is the man who introduced Amy to the game all those years ago.
“He was such a great player… a great motivation for me, but then I took lessons and I started beating him,” Amy laughs. “We don’t compete against each other anymore.” Amy says, they’re still friends though!
Amy’s a strong believer that tennis teaches some of the best life lessons.
“You work on control. Then you work on friendship… how to be a good competitor and a good loser. It’s just an all around good sport,” and Amy considers herself a social player… who’s very competitive! “I used to play a lot of singles, but now I just love doubles. I love to have a partner so we can both laugh together.”
Laughing is another key ingredient to Amy.
When Milwaukee schools were closed for in-person learning during the pandemic, the local rec. center opened for a few small, semi-private lessons for children to play.
“These kids are so great. My God, they were having fun! They were laughing! That’s what I want to see and I want to encourage that. You know? It’s not if you win or not. It’s how you play. Just go out there and have fun! Laugh! Be a kid.”
Amy is excited to see more kids pick up the sport next weekend, May 21-23 during the Play Tennis Midwest events — a free day of tennis learning and play across the Midwest. Milwaukee is hosting two events, one at Sijan Playﬁeld and the other at North Division High School.
“I’m very excited about Play Tennis Midwest!” Amy exclaims. “I think it’s going to be great for the community and a great introduction to tennis… You know, tennis has everything you want… It has great exercise, great friendship. It just clears your mind, puts you in a better mood — makes me a happier person.”
Other things that make Amy happy? Spending time with family and picking up a good meal.
“With Covid, I haven’t been around [my family] too much, and I’m really looking forward to spending time with [them].”
And her favorite restaurant?
“I’m Chinese. So I would say a Chinese restaurant. There’s no specific restaurant… I just like Chinese food — any Asian food,” Amy shares. And her family used to own a restaurant when she was growing up.
The restaurant was in Beaver Dam, WI — a little over an hour northwest of Milwaukee.
“It taught us discipline because we were very busy. It taught us to work together and be with each other. You can’t put a price on family time. Just to be with my mom and dad and my sisters working together. That was the best.”
Before working in the restaurant, Amy spent part of her early childhood in Hong Kong where she was born. Her family moved to America in 1969 — coming to Milwaukee in January when the weather was freezing cold.
“Did not like that… Did not like the cold, but… still here! I have a lot of family nearby. So I’m very fortunate,” Amy says.
She describes herself as having a big family, with her mom living close by at a senior facility. Amy’s mother loves the Milwaukee Bucks!
“Whenever there’s a game, I call and tell her what channel it’s on,” Amy smiles. “She knows all the numbers and all the people.”
As much as Amy spends time with her family, they know how dedicated she is to tennis.
“Anytime we have something going on, the family says, oh, do you have to play tennis first? I say, yes I do.”
“I just love it. I go out and I play with anybody — whoever asks me,” Amy says.
Whether that’s on a Cinderella team that unexpectedly earns its way to nationals, or organizing a clinic at one of the largest music festivals in the world, Amy’s done it all and continues to move the game forward for generations to come.
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