Henderson, Ross named to USTA
Junior Leadership Team
May 1, 2017
Sophie Henderson and Casey Ross have been named to the second USTA Junior Leadership Team, which recognizes the finest U.S. junior tennis players who exhibit leadership, sportsmanship and character on and off the court.
Henderson and Ross are among 32 players nationwide named to the USTA Junior Leadership Team. Each player was nominated by his or her USTA section for excellence in tennis and in the community.
“These players truly are role models who exhibit character well beyond their years, both on the tennis court and in the community,” said Bill Mountford, the USTA’s Director of Junior Tournaments. “We’re happy to have a way to give them some of the recognition they truly deserve with the USTA Junior Leadership Team.”
Henderson, from Las Vegas, has been ranked among the Top 150 18-and-under girls in the USTA national standings and in the Top 5 of the USTA Intermountain Section. ADVERTISEMENT Playing for Palo Verde High School, she’s a three-time doubles state champion (2013-15) and three-time USTA Nevada Scholar Athlete Award recipient, who is very active in the community. She is the president of Marty Hennessy’s Inspiring Children Foundation Leadership program and the Young Philanthropy Chairman of the global water conservation nonprofit One Drop. She has won numerous national and regional academic and leadership awards.
Ross, 18, a resident of Littleton, Colo., has been ranked in the Top 50 in the nation in the 18-and-under USTA junior rankings and No. 1 in the USTA Intermountain Section. He’s collected numerous national and regional championships and sportsmanship awards, was a four-time team and three-time singles state high school champion at Kent Denver High School and volunteers as a mentor for Team Colorado, a program that helps teach tennis to young kids.
Each year, more than 120,000 players compete in USTA junior tournaments. Players compete in levels of competition through earned advancement in the 10s, 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s age divisions. USTA junior tournaments help kids take their game as far as they want – high school, college or pros – or just have fun competing.
In their own words...
Sophie Henderson: In the simplest terms, tennis has led me to finding my place and myself. In order to show the massive role tennis plays in my life, I must go back to when I was four years old. At this time, I was dead set on becoming a gymnast. My plan was this: train for the next 12 years in gymnastics, go to the Olympics and then join my family in Cirque du Soleil as an acrobat. However, life had a different plan for me. When I was nine years old, I fractured my lower back and was forced to quit gymnastics.
While picking up tennis balls for my sister in my neck-to-tailbone back brace, I realized that I could actually swing a racquet. After a few times hitting with my sister, I fell in love with it. My family's belief that anything is possible with hard work and dedication motivated me to go for it, and I switched to tennis. Starting as the underdog, I loved every match, every practice and every lesson. I was completely absorbed in the opportunity to be able to move and practice with other positive people. I started at the No Quit Tennis Academy, and to this day, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The positive, energetic and fun environment at the academy is the perfect place for me to develop as a tennis player and person. Through the No Quit Tennis Academy, I was connected with the Marty Hennessy Inspiring Children Foundation (an NJTL) that dramatically improved my relationships with tennis, school and my family.
My sophomore year of high school I felt disconnected and uninspired to improve as a human being. Each day, I woke up, ate breakfast, went to school, came home, went to practice, did homework, had dinner, slept and repeated. As I got caught up in my head about grades, teacher’s favorites, homework and tests, I lost my earnest desire to learn, and I thought about quitting tennis frequently. Once I invested in the principles the foundation represents, I realized all of these negative thoughts were false. Almost immediately, I rediscovered my genuine love for school, tennis and life. I’ve reawakened a massive hunger to grow. Once I regained this love of learning, school was no longer about getting an award, being smart or getting into a great college, it was about improving myself and understanding the world in a deeper way. Instead of looking at school and tennis as overwhelming and stressful, I now see them as privileges. Not only has the foundation changed my mindset towards others and myself, it has given me the opportunity to be around positive, like-minded people, who push me to be a better person every day. Tennis has given me wisdom, meaningful friendships, mentors, inspiration and strength, and for that reason, I'm so grateful to be a part of such an amazing sport.
Casey Ross: Tennis is such a prominent part of my life story. I have been around the courts since I was just a few days old, and since I started to compete, I have always set out to obtain the highest levels of honor, respect, perseverance and leadership, both on and off the court. As soon as I was old enough to volunteer, I started mentoring younger tennis players in the Team Colorado community program, sharing my passions about sportsmanship, humility and gratitude. I wanted to lead by example. I donated tennis equipment to younger players. I often stayed after my own tennis practices to work with any kids who had the stamina to keep going. One of my favorite days was mentoring 10-year-olds Brady and Will. What started on the court became so much more off the court, as we talked about school, friends and life. Seeing their faces light up at the opportunity to play, and just talk, inspired me to keep mentoring.
At Team Colorado, I took every opportunity to talk to the entire group of young players. What started with a discussion of something like the necessary supplies in my racquet bag or exploring our best shots became a metaphor for me to use to inspire them with a “you can do it” attitude off the court. And they really listened! Surprisingly, one of the greatest feelings was when I looked towards the crowd after one of my matches when I lost and saw the younger kids watching me, looking to see how I’d handle a setback. After losing that match and walking off the court knowing, and acting, like I put in my highest effort, what those younger students saw will hopefully impact their future decision making while on the court. Competing in the game of tennis, whether in a loss or victory, always allows something to be learned. And it is always important to display the highest level of sportsmanship in both cases. You never know who is watching and what they will take away from your actions.
Tennis has greatly increased my senses of respect, sportsmanship, dedication and understanding in my academic and personal life. I have learned that I am constantly learning, the importance of giving 100% of your focus to the task at hand, and most of all, to express gratitude. Friends, teachers, tournament directors, coaches and family members all deserve a thank you for their assistance in my journey. The courts, the cities, the states, but most importantly the people help to solidify the fact that tennis is the sport for me.