100 Years of Growing the Game
On March 20, 2020, the USTA Missouri Valley will celebrate its 100th anniversary.
During that momentous month of March, when representatives from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma gathered together in St. Louis to form the Missouri Valley Tennis Association (now known as the USTA Missouri Valley), a century of tennis greatness was born.
From the very first President, James H. Cravens, to our current President, Lisa Minihan, and all 35 Presidents in between, the USTA Missouri Valley has been led through a rich tennis history. The USTA Missouri Valley is incredibly proud of the way these leaders have carried us through years of growth, momentous achievements, and a tennis revival.
In the 1920’s and 1930’s, just after the USTA Missouri Valley was founded, tennis began to grow in popularity and be seen as more accessible—a lifetime sport for everyone. In the forties and fifties, after life began to go back to normal after World War 2, the USTA Missouri Valley nearly doubled in size.
In the sixties and seventies, the game was changed drastically when Billie Jean King and Wilson introduced the first steel racket and Kansas City sports legend Lamar Hunt introduced the optic yellow tennis balls we still use today.
In the eighties and nineties, the USTA Missouri Valley expanded its influence by introducing the USTA League programs, NJTL and Tennis in the Hood events to reach inner-city communities, and aiming to grow tennis in schools and recreational programs.
Some of the biggest names in tennis history are rooted in the USTA Missouri Valley, including Kenny Flach, Butch Bucholz, Jimmy Connors, and Arthur Ashe, who set countless records and won over a dozen combined Grand Slams.
Few names, though, are as influential to tennis as St. Louis native Dwight Davis. Davis’s passion for the game and for local parks led forth to a surge of public tennis courts within parks furthering the growth of tennis in their local communities.
The accomplishments of all of these tennis legends have paved the way for the USTA Missouri Valley’s next generation of homegrown professional stars, including Jack Sock, Madison Keys, Nick Taylor, and Casey Ratzlaff.
Trophies have come and gone in the section over the last 100 years, including the Kansas City Explorers and Springfield Lasers’ World TeamTennis championship titles and the famed Davis Cup founded by Dwight Davis himself.
The USTA Missouri Valley has undergone many changes and seen tremendous growth, and it continues to change and grow for the better every day. The USTA Missouri Valley plans to celebrate this momentous year and our notable history accordingly, starting with our Centennial Community Campaign, continuing with our Gold Star Award program, and recognizing the occasion throughout all of our section-level events in 2020.