Zimmermans Spread Local Love for the Game
This month, we’re recognizing Dave and Sharon Zimmerman, who have played a major role in sharing the love of tennis throughout Wichita and the state of Kansas. The Zimmermans have received a USTA Missouri Valley Gold Star award for their continuous involvement in the community and their passion for sharing the game with others.
Although the couple works well as a tennis team now, they wouldn’t be as involved as they are today without having met each other. Dave started tennis in middle school, but Sharon didn’t become seriously involved until after they got married.
“The only tennis I had ever done was 2 weeks in our high school P.E. class. I didn’t have any real tennis until I met Dave,” Sharon said. “He took me out on the court, put a tennis racquet in my hand, and fed me some balls.”
Despite a lack of tennis experience, Sharon had an active childhood and a high school track career to thank for preparing her to learn a new sport.
“She’s probably a better natural tennis player than I am, so it’s good that I had a really long head start in learning,” Dave said.
The Zimmermans shared their love of the game with their six children and became a true tennis family right from the start.
“We would go to public courts to play, and we’d have our kids in little tot wheels and play pins on the tennis court with us,” Sharon said. “Tennis has always been a part of our family. Our kids all started doing lessons at a fairly young age, and each had a different development path.”
As they grew more involved in the community, Dave and Sharon became known for their kindness and willingness to teach the game to anyone who wanted to learn.
“I had learned enough tennis that I was able to go out and start helping others,” Sharon said. “That was something that was really fun for me, especially when adults would come up to me and say ‘Oh, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do,’ and I’d say, ‘Well I’ll take you out!’ So we’d go find a public court and bring hoppers of balls and just have fun playing.”
That encouraging attitude is what led the Zimmermans to support more of the local tennis community. They have each been involved with the annual Wichita Tennis Open and Sharon has served on the board for the Maureen Connolly Brinker Foundation of Kansas.
Perhaps one of their most rewarding experiences has been supporting the Wichita State University tennis team.
“When we were first involved with WSU tennis, it was pretty much under the radar. We would go to their matches and be two out of maybe five or six people there,” Dave said. “These kids had come thousands of miles across the world to play tennis, and here was nobody watching them, even though they were playing really well.”
The Zimmermans have been leading the local support for WSU tennis for over 15 years. They have watched the program develop into the powerhouse it is today, but more importantly, they’ve watched the players grow right along with it.
Each year, Dave and Sharon take time to get to know the athletes, many of whom are international students, and show their support for the team by cheering them on at matches, taking action photos of the players, celebrating their birthdays and even having the team over to their house for cookouts.
“I remember one night, the women’s team had won the Missouri Valley conference and were driving back into town,” Dave said. “It was like 11 o’clock at night, but we went to meet them at the tennis complex, and we were the only ones around. They were just going to get out of the van and go home to sleep, but we took them flowers and balloons and congratulated them on their success.”
Another team that holds a special place in the Zimmerman’s heart is the Trinity Academy tennis team. Right after Dave’s retirement as an electrical engineer for Boeing, the couple served as coaches for Trinity’s high school teams for four years.
“I left Boeing one Friday afternoon, drove to Trinity, and they announced me as the new men’s tennis coach,” Dave said. “So that was my short, two-hour retirement. There were some really difficult moments during that time, but we also met some amazing people. It was definitely a high point of my retirement.”
When they aren’t helping other players and teams in the local tennis community, Dave and Sharon have found time to get in some competitive play of their own through USTA leagues.
“Being with a competitive team at nationals was amazing,” Sharon said. “You get to see the much bigger picture of USTA and meet tennis players from all across the United States.”
The Zimmermans agree that the relationships built through the tennis community are one of the biggest rewards from being involved in the sport.
“The connections have been a really big thing for us,” Sharon said. “You get to be encouraging, and you can just see the smile on someone’s face when they realize they did something after thinking, ‘Oh I can’t do that.’ There’s a real satisfaction in seeing others be successful.”
USTA Kansas is proud to recognize Dave and Sharon with the Gold Star Award. You can check the official list of section winners here.