In their own words: Erica Perkins Jasper on Women’s History Month
As we celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March, we look toward leaders in tennis who are working to spread this sport far and wide. This month, you'll meet leaders who are telling their first-person stories and who recognize the influences family, friends, teachers and coaches have had on the direction their lives and careers have taken—and how that direction is positively impacting the newest generations. Today, meet Erica Perkins Jasper.
I love to be able to amplify and celebrate the stories of women who have changed the world for good—and there are so many fantastic examples from the world of sports, and particularly from tennis.
The sport of tennis, while not perfect, has historically been a leader in gender equity, especially with respect to equal prize money (shoutout to the GOAT herself, Billie Jean King). It wasn’t until I started doing more work outside of tennis that I realized how far ahead tennis actually was in this space.
For me, tennis has been “in my blood.” My dad, who has had a huge impact on me as a tennis player and later as a coach and leader, had played college tennis (and basketball) at the University of Washington, and I had an older half-brother who was a top-ranked junior tennis player and played on the satellite tour.
Growing up in Seattle, I played USTA junior tennis, then I played at Washington State University, where I graduated with a BA in History and an EdM in Educational Leadership & Administration with an emphasis in Athletic Administration. I spent a total of nine years as a college tennis coach and eight years as an athletic administrator in the sport of tennis. [Editor’s note: Erica was inducted into the Washington State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.]
Tennis was my career prior to 2019, as I had coaching stops at Georgia Southern, William & Mary, Michigan State and New Mexico, as well as working for USTA Player Development and the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Currently, I live in Claremont, Calif., and am the Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS). Our athletic department is comprised of students from Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd and Scripps colleges.
My tennis life now consists of hitting balls with my youngest son Caleb (age 8) and my volunteer work chairing the USTA Collegiate Pathway Committee (for my second term), serving on the NCAA Division III Men’s Tennis Committee, and chairing the NCAA Tennis Rules Sub-Committee.
Last term, I was fortunate to serve as a mentor for the USTA’s Emerging Leaders Cohort—I learned as much (maybe more) from my mentees, Laura Jackson and Megan Young, than they did from me.
I’ve had the opportunity to attend some key conferences and events that have truly helped shape the person and the leader that I am today. In 2006, I attended the NCAA Women Coaches Academy, which was an incredible experience. Then in 2017 I took part in the Pittsburgh Pirates “Think Tank” at their facility in Bradenton, Fla., with a diverse group of sports professionals from all over the country. Much like the NCAA Women Coaches Academy, this weekend of idea-sharing and camaraderie inspired me to think outside my comfort zone and probably led me to pursue being an Athletic Director. I try to stay active in WeCoach and also Women Leaders in College Sports—two organizations for women in college athletics that do a fantastic job with educational opportunities and helping create community.
I’ve also been fortunate to have both men and women—too many to list here—who have taken the time to provide me with guidance and support throughout my career. Now, at this point in my career, I’ve made it my mission to try to do the same for others coming up in tennis and in college athletics.