Shires And Special Olympics Iowa Receive Gold Star Awards
In honor of USTA Missouri Valley’s 100th anniversary this year, they are recognizing 100 deserving tennis providers, players, partners and more across our section throughout the year. We are pleased to announce Michael Shires in Iowa City and Special Olympics Iowa in Grimes have received the Gold Star Award, recognizing them for the contribution they are making to support and grow the game in the USTA Missouri Valley.
Shires, Director of North Dodge Athletic Club, has been recognized for his contributions to local tennis and his volunteerism at the district, section and national level. The Richmond, Virginia-native has been playing tennis for 50 years, and is currently a member of the Missouri Valley USPTA Board as well as serving as an Advisory Staff Member for Head/Penn and Adidas.
Shires is a USPTA Certified Tennis Professional with more than 30 years of teaching and club management experience, earning 2003 District Professional of the Year with the USPTA in Florida and 2007 USPTA Florida District President of the Year. Over the years, he has developed a training philosophy that concentrates on precise stroke technique, smooth footwork, mental focus and strategic shot selection.
“I am completely shocked. I put my heart and soul into making tennis great and available to everyone in Iowa, and to know that I have been rewarded by those in the Missouri Valley truly means the world to me,” said Shires. “It can be a very demanding role at times and to know that my hard work has been recognized by those in the USTA Missouri Valley is very humbling. Tennis in Iowa and the Missouri Valley has a bright future.”
Shires serves on the adult tennis committee and local play and competition committee as well as growing tennis through his club and serving as one of four district school trainers in Iowa. He is involved in the sport through coaching, driving community programming, serving as a school tennis partner, and directing USTA Adult Tournaments, USTA Junior Team Products, USTA Junior Tournaments, USTA Adult Tournaments and USTA League Tennis.
"I call Michael 'Dr. Tennis' because he can do it all; club tennis, school tennis, community tennis…the guy is always growing our sport!” said John Terpkosh, USTA Iowa Tennis Service Representative. “His experience gives him a unique perspective to see the ‘big’ picture and what's good for tennis."
Our second Iowa honoree is Special Olympics Iowa, represented in this article by Rhonda Schwarzkopf, Special Olympics Iowa’s Director of Sports and Advanced Competitions. Schwarzkopf has been with the organization for nearly 22 years. Special Olympics Iowa is being recognized for their growth in event participation, promoting diversity and inclusion, and providing a positive experience.
Special Olympics Iowa is making a difference through adaptive programming, coaching and orchestrating community programming. Special Olympics Iowa also hosts eight state competition events including the Summer Games. Tennis is one of six sports offered during the Summer Games, with 3,000 athletes and Unified partners participating.
Seven years ago, the organization implemented the red, orange, green and yellow ball pathway, allowing the participating athletes to develop at their own pace by using the appropriate ball, racquet and court size for their respective level of play.
"Rhonda has a great vision of how updating tennis could help Special Olympics athletes achieve and improve their game as tennis players,” said Terpkosh. “Seven years ago, Rhonda updated the tennis experience with the R.O.G.Y. ball skill pathway for summer competition resulting in greater success for the athletes, ease of mobility to move up and down according to their skills and saw growth of some new state locations offering tennis. Today, Special Olympics Iowa is one of only a few states that still offers tennis in their state summer games."
The Special Olympics Iowa isn’t limited to offering just tennis, either; the organization is fortunate to offer a total of 22 sports.
“We are truly honored to be a recipient of the Gold Star Award,” said Schwarzkopf. “Special Olympics Iowa is very proud of our partnership with the USTA. Certified officials and the five levels of competition have brought professionalism and integrity to our state tournament. It is such a joy knowing our athletes are achieving their goals and excelling in their training and competition."
A big thank you to Shires and Special Olympics Iowa for their dedication to the sport and for what they have done for so many players in our state.