NJTL 50 for 50: Ray Benton
As the USTA Foundation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Junior Tennis & Learning network, USTA.com looks at 50 NJTL leaders and alumni who helped shaped this incredible community dedicated to helping youth strive for academic and athletic excellence on the tennis court, in the classroom and in life.
In this installment, we catch up with Ray Benton, who has served as CEO of the Junior Tennis Champions Center and the College Park Tennis Club in College Park, Md., since 2008. Benton has been a longtime NJTL leader, first getting involved in the program in 1971. He served as the first national executive director of the NJTL, and under his auspices, the network grew from four to 50 chapters nationwide.
The Ray Benton File
Name: Ray Benton
NJTL Chapter: Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC), national NJTL network
Role with NJTL: Current CEO at JTCC, first national executive director of the NJTL network
Year became active in NJTL: 1971
How did you first get involved with NJTL?
Ray Benton: I joined a law firm, and I was living in Denver and had taught tennis. I had been in the tennis business, and at the time, I was president of the Colorado Youth Tennis Foundation, and I met Donald Dell, who was the Davis Cup captain. He was starting a law firm in Washington and asked me to join.
One of his first clients was Arthur Ashe. Of course, Arthur was one of the major founders of the NJTL. Donald [Dell] asked if I would be interested in spending half my time becoming the first national director. He had secured funding from Coca-Cola to fund the first national office. So I jumped at the opportunity and moved to Washington and, for seven years, spent literally 50 percent of my time as the first national executive director.
What has kept you involved with NJTL?
Ray Benton: The tennis center I run [JTCC], we are an NJTL chapter. It’s a good program. It delivers a lot of value, both from a tennis and academic standpoint.
What do you enjoy most about NJTL?
Ray Benton: I love the fact that we energize people to be leaders at the grassroots level and to be self-sufficient and run their own programs. People learn to raise their own money and to be totally self-sufficient, which is what any healthy industry needs.
We were able to grow from four chapters to 50 chapters in the years that I was leading it [the NJTL], so that’s very gratifying to me.