In their own words: Tim Ross on Pride Month
As we celebrate Pride Month during June, the USTA also celebrates volunteers in the LGBTQ+ community whose dedication to the sport helps to keep our game growing strong. With more than 350 national volunteers from all 17 USTA sections, it would be difficult to recognize every LGBTQ+ leader here. But we’re thrilled to highlight these volunteer leaders—in their own words—whose contributions, influence and enthusiasm continue to push this organization and this sport forward. Here, we highlight Tim Ross, from Livonia, Mich.
I fell in love with the game when I was very young. I was watching the Family Circle Cup on TV and immediately developed a crush on Chris Evert. (That was before I knew that I was a homosexual.) Soon after that, I picked up a racquet and started playing.
I had a paper route when I was a kid, and I saved my money and bought my first new racquet, a Wilson Jack Kramer. Then I took lessons at the Livonia (Mich.) YMCA. I played on the tennis team at Livonia Bentley High School, and was co-captain in my senior year. (I still live in Livonia, which is in metropolitan Detroit.) At Western Michigan University, while I wasn’t good enough to make the varsity team, I had a ton of fun, and some great competition, too, playing intramural tennis.
Like many tennis players who graduate from college and get involved in careers and other pursuits, I fell away from competitive organized tennis and didn’t play for about 10 years. Then, in the late 1990s, a new club, the Sports Club of Novi, opened near my home. A contractor who was working for me at the time found out I loved playing tennis, and he invited me to play at the club. And that was all it took.
In 1998, I started captaining a men’s 4.0 singles/doubles league. The next year I started captaining USTA League teams. Since then, I’ve captained 26 consecutive years of multiple teams, both men’s and mixed.
In 2002, I joined the LGBTQ+ group, the Motor City Tennis Alliance. We held the first Motor City Tennis Classic in 2004 and in the past 19 years it has raised more than $50,000 for local charities. Part of the Gay & Lesbian Tennis Association (GLTA), the Motor City Tennis Classic was one of the first tournaments played after the pandemic restrictions were lifted.
My volunteer efforts began on the Diversity Committee for the Southeastern Michigan Tennis Association, then a little over 10 years ago, I started volunteering with the USTA Midwest section, on the Awards & Recognition Committee, later becoming chair. I then chaired the section’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. I also was the lead adult volunteer for the USTA Midwest section leading adult social and competitive tennis, and currently I’m the Midwest section delegate. Nationally, I’m in my seventh year as a member of the USTA Awards Committee, and I’ve also participated in leadership workshops focusing on growing volunteer diversity.
Throughout the last decade or so, I noticed that many localities had tennis charities or foundations. In 1949, the Greater Detroit Patrons Tennis Foundation was formed, but it had in recent years become inactive. So, two years ago, I pulled together the board and we cranked things up again, holding a Racquet Drive that helped support inner-city kids and raised thousands of dollars to promote local tennis. The Foundation has also bought two sport wheelchairs for the wheelchair community.
I have also had the pleasure of hosting Pride Night at the Western & Southern Open for the last eight years. We’ve been so inspired by how the US Open has embraced diversity for all and goes the extra mile to be inclusive in all ways, including with its Pride celebrations. When we first started our Motor City Tennis Classic two decades ago, we were limited in how we could advertise, since there was much hesitation in accepting advertising for an event such as ours. But that’s no longer the case, and I’m so proud and pleased that our sport, and the USTA and US Open, continue to open that door wider and wider for the LGBTQ community.