Erin Maher | March 19, 2018
Grass-roots programs are vital resources in spreading awareness and love for the game of tennis. Every year at the USTA Annual Meeting, the USTA honors those programs and individuals that have dedicated their time to growing the game of tennis.
The 2018 honorees came from all backgrounds and sections to be recognized for their outstanding dedication to growing tennis at a local level.
The awards were given at the 2018 USTA Annual Meeting and Conference, which was held March 16-19 at the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif.
Meet the USTA Annual Award recipients (click on the headlines in bold to view video):
Grady Landrum of Wichita, Kan., was presented with the Brad Parks Award for his outstanding contribution in helping grow wheelchair tennis at the local level. ADVERTISEMENT The Brad Parks Award is presented annually and honors an individual or organization that has been instrumental in the development of wheelchair tennis around the world through playing, coaching, sponsoring or promoting the game.
Landrum’s career highlights span over 30 years and include starting programs and tournaments at the grassroots level in three major U.S. cities: the Cornhusker Classic (now named Cornhusker State Games) in Lincoln, Neb.; the Northwest Wheelchair Tennis Association and the First Pacific Northwest Wheelchair Tennis Championship in Portland, Ore.; and Wheelchair Sports Inc. in Wichita, Kan. These programs and tournaments are still thriving today.
“Grady Landrum has been an inspirational leader in wheelchair tennis and an asset to our team in organizing and promoting events,” said Craig Morris, Chief Executive, Community Tennis. “He is more than deserving of the Brad Parks Award for his dedication to the organization.”
The Dallas Tennis Association (DTA) was selected as the Community Tennis Association (CTA) of the Year. The USTA CTA of the Year Award was established in 2002 to honor a CTA for outstanding service in growing and developing the sport of tennis in its community.
DTA is a non-profit, USTA-registered community tennis association serving the Dallas metropolitan area. Over the last 50 years, DTA has grown not only in membership but in community outreach. The Dallas Tennis and Education Academy programs currently serve 25,000 children, ages 4 through 18, in the Dallas metropolitan area. Participants play at all levels, from beginners to the advanced Excellence Team, which plays in national tournaments.
“The Dallas Tennis Association is an incredible CTA and partner,” said Morris. “We are proud to honor an organization that has been instrumental in growing and sustaining a vibrant tennis community with this well-deserved award.”
Terri Florio of Jacksonville Beach, Fla., was selected as the recipient of the 2018 USTA Eve F. Kraft Community Service Award. The USTA awards the Eve F. Kraft Community Service Award to individuals who best exemplify Kraft’s selfless mission to bring the sport of tennis to everyone who wants to play.
Florio has been the Executive Director of the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation since its inception 21 years ago. She was instrumental in developing the initial programs with MaliVai and continues to drive the strategic direction of the organization and its programs.
“Terri is one of those rare people that you run across in life who truly cares about helping other people and making a difference,” said Morris. “Eve Kraft would have loved Terri because of the fire inside her and her devotion to making her community better no matter what.”
Bert Cole of Arlington, Texas, was presented with the USTA Foundation National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) Founders’ Service Award. Established in 2010, the NJTL Founders' Award was created to recognize an individual who has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to positive youth development through tennis and education, delivers outstanding service to under-resourced children with free or low-cost tennis, and provides education and life-skills programming.
Cole serves as the director of the Dallas Tennis & Education Academy (DTEA) and has been a longtime and frequent contributor to NJTL national meetings and conferences. She also serves as a mentor to other NJTL chapters on a myriad of topics, including programming, life skills and overall operations.
“Bert and her program are a shining example of what a difference NJTL can make in a community,” said Morris. “She is a true grassroots hero and a tremendous leader, and we commend her outstanding dedication to providing opportunities and teaching life skills to children in need.”
Mark Platt of St. Louis was selected as the recipient of the Janet Louer USTA Junior Team Tennis (JTT) National Organizer of the Year Award, which is given annually to an individual who positively influences children’s lives and substantially impacts their community.
Platt has been involved with Junior Team Tennis since 2011. He first organized teams in 2013 and now has at least one team in every intermediate league offered. As part of his work to promote JTT, Platt developed two middle school tennis leagues: the Rockwood School District Tennis Program and the Mobile Tennis Academy, serving a total of six area school districts.
“Mark has exhibited hard work and remarkable dedication, which has led to a great amount of growth and development in Missouri junior tennis programs over the last few years,” said Morris. “We are proud to recognize him for his continuous efforts in growing the game on a junior level.”
Downtown Club at the Met was recognized with the USTA Organization Member of the Year Award, which is given annually to an organization that provides outstanding service to its members and to the local community.
Since its opening in 1976, Downtown Club at the Met has served as a center for tennis in the heart of the Houston community. For decades, it has supported the USTA mission of growing the game by offering programming for collegiate level tennis, alumni groups, special needs groups, leagues, juniors, seniors, local schools and charities.
“The Met is an outstanding local tennis organization that focuses on community engagement through grassroots programming,” said Morris.
The Fridinger family of White Bear Lake, Minn., was honored with the Ralph W. Westcott USTA Family of the Year Award. The Family of the Year Award, created by the USTA in 1965, is given annually to a family that volunteers its time to promote amateur tennis, emphasizing the theme that tennis is a family game.
Tom Fridinger has played tennis for more than 60 years, is currently ranked No. 1 in 70s doubles and No. 2 in 70s singles, and has qualified for USTA League Nationals 15 times in the past 35 years. His wife, Ellen, is a recreational tennis player and supports her husband and the sport, both on and off the court.
Tom and Ellen passed on their love of the game to their son, Steve, his wife, Beth, and their three sons, Evan, Caleb and Luke. Steve, with the support of Beth, helped start the ERRA Youth Program and Community Tennis Association in Woodbury, Minn., in 2010, where he is now the director of instruction.
“The USTA is proud to honor the Fridinger family for their dedication to the sport and their impact upon the tennis community,” said Morris. “The Fridingers exemplify the best parts of the sport, and their efforts continue to help the growth of tennis.”
David Carey was posthumously recognized with the annual Seniors’ Service Award, which was established in 1958 to recognize and honor a person for his or her service to senior tennis.
Carey dedicated himself to tennis and to sharing the game with the Asheville, N.C., community. He was a tremendous supporter of the local City Open and the Asheville Tennis Association. His family sponsored the North Carolina premiere of the movie “Gold Balls.” Carey also supported a middle school initiative through the American Tennis Association, where he raised consciousness and the benefits of the sport.
“Carey truly exemplified tennis being the sport for a lifetime with his long-term dedication as a tennis player and leader in our sport,” said Morris. “Carey had a commitment to tennis unlike any other, and we not only applaud his efforts, but we are also grateful for his support in the Asheville area. He is sorely missed by the Asheville Tennis Community and all those that knew him.”
Roshan N. Rakjumar and Steve Gerdes were awarded the Volunteer Exceptional Service Award, which recognizes national committee members who have made exceptional contributions above and beyond expected committee work.
Rakjumar, of Minneapolis, has been a USTA committee member since 2014, serving on committees, including Diversity and Inclusion, Section Presidents and Section Delegates. He has also chaired two USTA National task forces.
Gerdes, of Omaha, Neb., has dedicated 37 years of service to the USTA. During his time with the USTA, he has served in various roles, including editor of the yearbook and "Friend at Court." His service continues on the court, as well, as he's been a USTA certified official since 1966.