Missouri Valley / Heart Of America

Happy New Year From Our Board President

Sydney Hamilton | January 04, 2023

Happy 2023 USTA Heart of America!!


The transition from the past year to the new year has always been a time when people look back and remember past accomplishments, then refocus and start their efforts to set and meet new milestones and build on the prior successes. Last year, USTA Heart of America (USTA HOA) made extensive strides to grow tennis participation–to improve how we deliver new tennis opportunities and expand our established tennis programs for people in our district. League registrations increased nearly 14%, climbing to almost 6,000 players in leagues and 14 teams competing at National Championships. We also added a new 55 & Over Mixed league. 

We have experienced growth in our junior circuit (45% increase) and junior tournament events (34% increase). This would not have been possible without the amazing, dedicated, and hard-working volunteers, staff, and tennis industry partners (including but not limited to, parks and recreation departments, clubs, community tennis associations, charities, tennis teaching professionals and retailers) in our District. They sponsor, support, grow, and most of them participate in (or have children who play or have played in) the wide array of tennis programs and events within the District. Without them, USTA HOA tennis would not have enjoyed the growth it has for many years. So, I want to start by saying THANK YOU and that I look forward to working with our returning and new volunteers, staff, and partners! 

As your new USTA Heart of America Board President, the first duty requested of me was to prepare this article. The direction was to “introduce yourself and give a synopsis of your vision for tennis development in the District during your term.”  My thoughts were–someone thinks that sounds like an easy task and it is just my FIRST assignment.  Well, here goes an attempt at the first part, an introduction!


When I look back on how tennis has touched my life, I realize how lucky I am to have found this “sport for a lifetime.” Like many of us, tennis is much more than just a sport for me; this game has greatly enriched my life.  As a result of tennis, I have:


  • Traveled all over the country running or participating in tennis events since 1980 

  • Met thousands of people who I can truly call friends and family

  • Worked in the tennis industry as an umpire, high school coach, and college coach (NCAA DIII team), tennis teaching professional, club manager, and program director in two USTA Sections, New England and Missouri Valley

  • Been honored as an NAIA Academic All-American, an inductee of my college and high school Hall of Fames, tennis teaching professional of the year, and coach of the year

  • Volunteered as a team captain, an event assistant, and a local, district, sectional, and national board or committee member 

  • And played tennis throughout my lifetime, including playing tournaments at local parks and tennis clubs, on my high school and college teams, and I am still hitting the ball around on 6-8 adult teams each year.

To address the goals part, it is hopefully with a shared sense of humor that I introduce an overview of our District goals in an unusual way: by giving everyone permission to use an “f-word.” No, not that one! I mean these:


  • Fresh and/or Flexible Ideas: I encourage all of us to open our minds to fresh and/or flexible ideas on how to bring tennis to more people in our District. As we pursue growing tennis, we need new ideas to help address our needs for more court time, more volunteers, more industry partnerships, more officials, more instructors, more equipment, etc. Let’s look at these needs from every angle and develop new strategies and not rely solely on the strategies that have led to past successes. 
  • Find Some Time: Volunteers have always been critical to growing tennis. MYTH BUSTER: volunteering is not only done by people who have “a lot of spare time.”  We need volunteers in a variety of capacities and varied levels of time commitments.  Some volunteer opportunities only ask for a few hours or just a day of a volunteers’ time. Find some time that you can give back to our sport.  There are a large variety of volunteer opportunities for you to choose from, such as, adult and youth introductory tennis events at clubs, parks and schools; junior and adult tournaments; adult league tournaments; and Committee and Board positions. Even more than we need volunteers, we need tennis officials (umpires). All sports, all over the country, are suffering from a lack of officials. I have officiated tennis since 1989 and I have enjoyed learning tennis from both sides–playing and officiating.  Please consider becoming a tennis official and providing this much needed service.  Contact the USTA Heart of America office at ustaheartofamerica@gmail.com, for more information on all of our volunteer opportunities and on becoming a tennis official, or you can use the following link to fill out a volunteer or officiating interest form USTA HOA Volunteer Survey.
  • Foundation: We are privileged to have a significant number of tennis courts throughout the District at parks, clubs, schools, and residential communities.  Tennis courts are the literal foundation that we use to continue to have a thriving tennis community. We are fortunate that many of our local clubs have been remodeled and/or their tennis courts updated. However, many other courts and tennis facilities have become unplayable because they have not received needed repairs and maintenance. Many people may not know that the USTA (at the national, sectional and district levels) have grants that are available to help maintain and sometimes even build new tennis courts. Some of our tennis courts need attention and I hope we all can work together to maintain our foundation. Even efforts like pulling the weeds from around the perimeter of some courts, repairing tennis nets and tightening them to the proper height, picking up any trash that has been left on the courts, etc., will make a huge difference.
  • Forever: Tennis really is a “Sport for a Lifetime.” We offer learning and playing opportunities for all ages and skill levels. As tennis players already know, we are the most effective “advertisements” for tennis. We can explain to non-tennis players that tennis is a game for everyone and there are learning and playing opportunities for all ages and abilities. Spread the word about how much you love tennis!
  • Family: I have been thinking a great deal about family this year and I realize that I have been blessed with two families–my blood relatives and in-laws and my tennis family. I am so thankful to both families for always being there for me. I encourage you all to reach out with me and bring more people into our tennis family!
  • Fun: Perhaps the most important goal or assignment that I have for everyone is to remember that we all play this game to have fun! Laugh with each other, compete against each other with integrity, share stories afterward, and always have FUN!


The start of a new year is always promising and exciting. Let’s make 2023 the last f-word–FANTASTIC!



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