USTA Kansas Board Members Gabriel Yankey and Terry Neal on Tennis and Their Goals for 2023
USTA Kansas believes the beautiful diversity of our District should be accurately reflected in our Board of Directors. In honor of Black History Month, we spoke with two of our newest Board members, Gabriel Yankey and Terry Neal, on their roads to falling in “love” with tennis and their goals for 2023 as members of the Board. Keep reading for our interviews with these incredible members of our District.
Gabriel is originally from Ghana. He came to the US in 1979 to pursue a degree in Divinity, at a seminary in Lubbock. Gabriel was a minister and licensed interpreter for the deaf, and was close with the president of the Olathe School for the Deaf. After seminary, he started a deaf ministry in Arkansas City and went to Texas Tech to study psychology.
While in Arkansas City, Gabriel met his wife, who he married in 1982. After obtaining his bachelor's degree in psychology, he pursued and graduated with a master’s degree from Friends University. His studies in psychology saw Gabriel working in drug and alcohol counseling for the Department of Corrections, and eventually as clinical director.
When did you start playing tennis?
“I started playing tennis 8-10 years ago,” said Gabriel. “I started by accident–I initially played soccer. My son played soccer and tennis in high school in Wichita. I encouraged him to pursue tennis in college, but he decided to pursue soccer instead.”
“I said, well, with all the investments I’ve made in [my son’s] racquet and shoes and all, I figured I’d pick it up and start to play.”
In 2005, Gabriel decided to head to Riverside Tennis Center in Wichita to start playing. While there, he would sit and watch a group of lawyers play on their breaks at lunchtime, and eventually asked them if he could join. They, of course, welcomed him to the court.
“The first time [I played tennis with the lawyers], I started hitting balls into the river,” Gabriel laughed. “But they kept encouraging me. Due to my speed and soccer skills, they saw potential in me.”
Now, Gabriel enjoys playing tennis every day. “I would play tennis every single day, if I can find a partner or group of people to play with.”
Since 2005, Gabriel has played in sanctioned leagues in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. He won 3.5 singles in Tulsa, a singles title in Wichita, and 50 and Over singles titles in 2021-2022.
“Tennis is incredibly addictive,” said Gabriel. “Given that it is a very healthy sport, I just can’t put my racquet down. I carry racquets in my vehicle just in case people want to play. Tennis is for all ages, genders, and races. As long as you have the interest, it’s a wonderful sport to pursue.”
“I try to convince as many people as I can to give tennis a try.”
What does it mean to you to be a member of the Board of Directors?
“It's one of the greatest honors of my life to be on the board,” Gabriel said. “Alex Lee, who’s also on the Board, has seen me play several times at McAdams. I’ve participated in many of his clinics. He asked me if I’d be interested in joining the USTA Board. I said I’d be glad to but didn’t know what that would entail.”
“He provided all the resources I needed to serve on the Board.” Gabriel submitted his name in December and is now an official member of the Board.
“I’ve shared with the Board that my utmost interest is to become a chair umpire or referee,” said Gabriel. He plans to pursue umpire training and certification this year.
“I’m grateful for everyone at USTA,” said Gabriel.
When did you start playing tennis?
Terry started playing when he was just 10 years old. “My dad had started playing and it was a way of us bonding together. I just took it to another level as far as competition.”
After four years playing tennis at #1 in high school, Terry took his tennis skills to North Carolina Central University, where he was named Most Valuable Player in 1994 and 1995. He played both singles and doubles. “I played under the great coach Lawson,” Terry said. “He was very inspirational in my tennis career as well. The love he showed his players and the way he interacted with us–I can’t say one thing he said [that motivated me], just his actions.”
What are your goals for 2023 as a member of the Board of Directors?
After college, Terry played in USTA leagues and tournaments, so he was incredibly excited to join the Board of Directors–and he has plans for getting more people excited for tournaments as one of his top goals for his tenure.
Terry played in an Open-level tournament in Nebraska–a tournament with a cash prize on the line–and the amount of participants got him thinking that, by making cash the prize for winning a tournament instead of a trophy, more players would be apt to participate. “Amy Mathews and I came up with a tri-level tournament in Topeka with a $2,000 prize for the first-place team–and it was a success,” Terry said. It was open to participants 3.0 and up, and the turnout was incredible at over 80 participants. He has a tournament coming up in Springfield, Missouri, at Cooper Tennis Complex, February 18-19, which is also tri-level.
“I’m just trying to make [tennis] grow here in this area,” said Terry. “I did a tournament two weeks ago and it was a cash tournament, mixed doubles, and 10 teams that signed up, so I think a cash prize for division players is going to be big once I get the USTA behind me.”
“If you can go play a tournament and there’s a cash prize, I think that’ll get more players [to participate] than if there’s just a trophy.”
Welcome, Gabriel and Terry, to the USTA Kansas Board of Directors! We’re so glad you’re here, and we can’t wait to see what 2023 has in store with your fresh perspectives and ideas.