NGWSD Spotlight: Leading It Forward

To the Next Decade

Victoria Chiesa  |  February 5, 2020

At the highest levels of professional tennis, American women are thriving. As of the latest edition of the WTA rankings, there are a staggering 17 Americans, led by Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, inside the Top 100—the most of any country, and more than double that of second-place Czech Republic, which boasts eight.


But beyond hitting forehands and backhands and competing around the world, there are other avenues in which women can pursue, and create, a lifelong career in the sport.


Through the development of specialized programming for female coaches, and a commitment to the growth of officiating, the USTA is playing its part in sowing the seeds of gender equity in tennis for the next decade and beyond.


At the professional level, the USTA has long been a leader in the number of female officials selected for the US Open, compared to professional female officials in other major American sports organizations. ADVERTISEMENT   


In 2015, the US Open was the first Grand Slam to have women chair both the men's and women's singles finals in the same year. Three years later, in 2018, four out of the five US Open finals were chaired by women.


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From those who sit in the chair to those who stand on the sidelines, the USTA has also created a pipeline for female coaches across all levels, from grassroots tennis to the professional tour.


Since 2014, USTA Player Development has utilized the High Performance Coaching and Performance Analytics Fellowship to identify and cultivate the next generation of tennis coaches.


Last year, a similar fellowship was added for the USTA’s strength and conditioning program, a department in which one-third of the staff is female.

Open to recent college graduates, these fellowships provide experiential training, mentorship and independent research opportunities for those who have a desire to coach.


Since the program’s inception, over 40 percent (9-of-21) of the coaching fellows have been female.


Rita Gladstone, head teaching professional at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., lauded the impact that female coaches can have on young athletes: “It gives different perspectives, multiple perspectives, having women coaching players of all ages and all levels—from the youngest up to the highest levels.”


And on Wednesday, Jan. 29, nearly two dozen young children were the beneficiaries of that wisdom.


USTA Player Development national coaches, USTA high performance coaches and nearly a dozen junior players—an entirely female staff—gathered at the National Campus to teach a tennis activity clinic.


“It was a great opportunity for our coaches, our players from Player Development and our young students. I think they all gained something from this experience,” Gladstone said of the session.


“As a coach, there’s nothing better than to see it. The sport of tennis brings all of those generations and demographics together. It’s a wonderful thing.”


Even still, these initiatives are not just taking place at the national level. Since 2018, USTA Southern and USTA Florida have held Girls' Sectional Team USA Camps for young players, which are staffed by an all-female roster of coaches.


“My very first coach was a female coach, and I will remember that forever,” added Maureen Diaz, a women's national coach with USTA Player Development.


“I still have a relationship with her. For little girls to have that role model, to have that female voice, it’s so important through all levels.


“To see where they could be someday—to have that inspiration, at any level and at any age, that’s important.”


National Girls and Women in Sports Day is an annual day of observance held during the first week of February to acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, recognize the influence of sports participation for women and girls, and honor the progress and continuing fight for equality for women in sports.


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