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Three Earn Gold Star Awards
From left: Carmen Bond, Chris Ridgeway, Emmy Tigert.
In honor of our 100th anniversary in 2020, the USTA Missouri Valley will be recognizing 100 deserving tennis providers, players, partners and more across our section throughout the year.
Selected nominees will be given a Gold Star award, recognizing them for the contributions they are making to support and grow the game in the USTA Missouri Valley based on specific program areas and attributes.
April’s Oklahoma award winners are Carmen Bond, executive director of the Oklahoma Tennis Foundation, Chris Ridgeway, a PE and health teacher in Mustang, Okla., and Emmy Tigert, executive director of First Serve OKC.
Tell us a little bit about what you do and how you got into this position.
Carmen Bond: I am the Executive Director of Oklahoma Tennis Foundation and our mission is to help fund and support tennis organizations around the state of Oklahoma that are positively impacting lives through tennis and education. I love my job and it has been a very exciting journey. I was hired in September 2017. Tennis has always been one of my passions. While growing up in Guthrie, Oklahoma I played on the high school tennis team and absolutely loved everything about it! But tennis took a back seat in my life for years after college. Tennis came back into my life and I started playing Cardio Tennis and could not get enough of this awesome game. The camaraderie in tennis is unmatched! Tennis really is the sport of a lifetime and my passion grew as quickly as the years passed.
Chris Ridgeway: I am in my 11th year of teaching and my 2nd year as a physical education/health teacher at Meadow Brook Intermediate in Mustang Public Schools. I also serve as the community partner for Mustang schools with USTA Net Generation. I decided to step into this role for our district to help teachers get the resources they need to teach a quality tennis unit and to let students have an opportunity to try tennis in their PE classes. We also help guide families of those that would like to seek out more opportunities to improve their tennis skills.
Emmy Tigert: I am the Executive Director of First Serve OKC. My role is to lead the non-profit in our mission of strengthening the lives and enhancing the character of Oklahoma City youth through tennis and education. I have always been involved in tennis coaching and was directing the University of Oklahoma Tennis Club in 2014 when I found out about this new National Junior Tennis and Learning program being started in Oklahoma City. I knew the founder, Mark Allen, and it was a natural fit for them and me.
Why do you do what you do? What is your favorite part of what you do?
Carmen Bond: My favorite part of partnering with OKTF, and raising money would have to be the people. I love community and making a difference in lives through tennis!
Our tennis programs in Oklahoma are full of heart. The children and adults that hit the ball for the first time regardless of physical ability are full of joy and excited to continue this game. The mentors are so selfless in the way they lead and help by giving of their time. Tennis has become a vehicle to change lives in a positive way, and I love that!
Chris Ridgeway: I coached my daughter’s softball and basketball teams for a few years and quickly discovered how much I enjoy working with kids. I decided to try the alternative teaching route and couldn’t be happier. It is so rewarding to see students gain confidence in new and challenging skills and activities. Especially those that can be used for a lifetime. Racket/paddle sports are a perfect example of these types of activities.
Emmy Tigert: I’ve always loved getting people into tennis. Growing up, I played with a lot of friends who started playing much earlier than me and who had access to a lot more coaching than I did. I always felt that I was playing catch up and had more potential. The kids that we serve in First Serve OKC also lack access and opportunities to get into tennis. I love being able to not only introduce them to the sport, but show them that if they work hard, they can be competitive with other more affluent kids.
How do USTA programs assist you in your community/position? What advice do you have for those who'd like to run a program or get more people on the court?
Carmen Bond: We partner with USTA in just about every facet of our organization. Our grants go to many of the NJTLs in our state and we feel confident that funds we are granting are being used appropriately and we know that these programs are meeting our mission of positively impacting lives through tennis. Our free Rural Tennis Clinic initiative is a wonderful outreach to all 77 counties in Oklahoma and we partner with USTA to bring Net Generation to each of those communities and schools. USTA really does an incredible job of assisting OKTF in making a huge difference in lives through tennis across our great state.
When you ask me if I have any advice...I think that it is crucial for you to love what you do. Having an impact on lives can start small and you can make a difference within your own neighborhood and communities. But if you feel called to do more...Go for it and don't hesitate. Trust yourself and always stay teachable. OKTF's tagline is: "We Start With Love️." Love is contagious. The power of putting a passion with a purpose was key for me. I believe in being transparent and genuine, loving others and being the leader that you would want to follow.
Chris Ridgeway: USTA does a great job of promoting their sport by communicating, training, and supporting teachers by providing quality equipment, as well as a standard-based curriculum for all grade levels. It is apparent that USTA sees the value of quality PE programs and how they can benefit the sport of tennis. Many kids do not get the opportunity to even try tennis so I try my best to get everything physical educators need to make their program successful. Through the USTA and Net Generation, I am able to do this.
Emmy Tigert: We are a National Junior Tennis and Learning chapter, which is the primary driver for youth programming under the USTA Foundation. Under that umbrella, we utilize the Net Generation curriculum and host USTA tournaments, Team Challenges, and Team Tournaments. USTA Missouri Valley has been a long-standing partner and funder through their Serving Up Tennis grants. Advice for others is to start by evaluating the need in your community and then to start building relationships, especially with the local schools. Facilities are important, but you need quality kids in the program and adults mentoring them. Always put people first, and the rest will follow.
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