Missouri Valley / Heart Of America

Sportsmanship Shoutout: Meet Two League Players who are Changing the Game

Sydney Hamilton | August 30, 2023

Sportsmanship is the cornerstone of a positive tennis experience, no matter your level of experience. Good sportsmanship creates an atmosphere of warmth and community, both on and off the courts, and can go a long way during one’s journey in the sport.


USTA Heart of America is proud to share the stories of two of our League players, Kathy Hodge and Tracy Cooper, who were our monthly Sportsmanship Award winners for April 2023. Both Kathy and Tracy were nominated by their fellow players for the award.


Meet Tracy Cooper!


Tracy was nominated by fellow player, Jill Burgdorfer. “Ohhh, [she should win the award] because she is a love/hate to play! Kidding! I have played her twice and everytime she is the nicest and most fun person to play not only competitively but personally! She is fair, compliments, doesn’t take it easy on you but makes you better! She is one of the absolute best singles players out there competitively and personally!”

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Tracy has been playing in USTA Leagues for 35 years. For the past few years, she’s played on a League team with Amie Schick, Amy Fangman, and Renetta Ramsdell. “They rotate being captain, but I basically play with the same people,” she said.


Good sportsmanship, to Tracy, is of utmost importance, and something that helps bring people together. “I think that good sportsmanship is really important,” she said. “I coach high school tennis, and we put that first on our talk with the kids! It’s a game; you’ll be friends with these ladies for many years and need to keep good sportsmanship in mind at every match. We’re all competitive and want to win, but I’ve learned that friends and good attitudes are way more important in the long run!

“If you can encourage your partner and opponents with positive compliments, laughing at our bad shots, and being a ‘good loser,’ that will go a long way,” Tracy continued.


The bonds built on the court can also build a greater community that stands together and supports one another in good times and in bad. “The tennis community had a very rough week this week with two unexpected deaths,” Tracy lamented. “But we all rallied together and are supporting [their loved ones]! I have donations from over 100 ladies to purchase a memorial bench in their honor and more. 


“We’ve all learned that tennis brought us together and tennis will connect us forever,” Tracy said. “I love this sport, but really LOVE the friendships that I have gained through the years.”

Meet Kathy Hodge!


Kathy was nominated by Heart of America League captain Kelly Schwabauer, who had this to say about her: “Kathy is always gracious and fun. She is friendly and my team enjoys playing hers. Kathy’s team and mind are kind of rivals but we really enjoy playing them. She is a leader who helps maintain friendliness when we go to Lawrence or if they come to play at Elite. When our teams finish playing, everyone can still leave happy, win or lose.”


Kathy has been playing in USTA Leagues for about seven years.  “I’ve played and captained a 3.0 team out of Genesis in Lawrence, and I started [on my current team] three years ago,” Kathy said. She will be playing at another club and for another team next season, however.


When asked what good sportsmanship means to her, Kathy replied, “Good sportsmanship, to me, means playing fair, honest, and being courteous and respectful to all players on the court. Good sportsmanship is very important to keep the game fun and enjoyable.”


One of her favorite League memories? Representing her tennis club at League Sectionals with her teammates. “Our team went to Sectionals in St. Louis in early August for the first time in club history.  It was fun to see other players from USTA Heart of America,” she said.  “The tournament was run very well and we met some fantastic people. I hope to go back in the future.”



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