New England

ED Olson Grateful for Seven Years in New England

James Maimonis, Manager, Media & Communications | February 09, 2022

WESTBOROUGH, MA - Matt Olson is a people’s leader. Always supportive of his staff, board and volunteers, he puts others’ needs before his own and remains modest while doing so. He never craves attention or seeks out the spotlight, and because of this, he was beloved during his time as USTA New England Executive Director and COO. 


After more than seven memorable and impactful years living in Boston, Olson is leaving the New England Section to return home to Atlanta, where he has accepted the same position at USTA Southern, USTA’s largest section both by area and membership. 


The Atlanta native, who formerly worked for USTA Southern and as the ED of USTA Atlanta for 12 years, made lifelong friends, memories and a lasting impression in New England. 


“Matt is modest, but there’s no question in my mind, he changed the culture of our organization, and we’re better off for it,” said Pete Schutter, USTA New England League Manager, who has been working for the organization for 15 years. “He created an environment that allowed his staff to take chances and grow both personally and professionally, and in doing so, he brought people together.”


Under Olson’s direction, in 2020, USTA New England formed its Innovation Team with the goal of creating a more innovative and inclusive culture both internally and out in the tennis community. The group hosted the Section’s first ever Innovation Challenge, a monthslong initiative that gave New England tennis players the opportunity to submit new ideas for cash prizes and implementation into USTA New England’s future plans. 


New England was the first USTA Section to present such a program and saw tremendous success in doing so.

“His leadership and support had a direct impact on the success of both the Innovation Team and Challenge. Because of it, our staff are more open and comfortable in providing feedback and offering to participate in various ways, and as a result, it’s been a more enjoyable place to work,” Schutter said.


“My goal as a leader is to look for potential in people and try to encourage them to do the best they can. I want them to take ownership in what they do to help grow tennis,” Olson said. “The staff and board embraced me from the beginning, and while it took a little time to build and strengthen relationships, I’ve noticed we’ve had such a cohesive and tight-knit team these past few years, especially while we were all apart during the pandemic.”

Olson’s empowering leadership style extended well beyond the office. During his time in Atlanta, he co-founded and ran the Atlanta Youth Tennis & Education Foundation, a prominent area USTA National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) chapter, which he held near and dear to his heart. Moving up north, he was pleasantly surprised by an NJTL culture that was extremely unique and unlike any he’d previously experienced. With a strong and connected network already in place, he felt obligated to offer up his experience and knowledge and was eager to lend a helping hand.


“I understood the day to day struggles that these NJTLs were experiencing while making a huge impact on their communities, so to me, it was a no brainer to support them in any way I could,” Olson said. “Whether funding or staff support, it was really cool to be a part of this thriving NJTL network in New England, which is unlike anywhere else in the country. And to see a few more new chapters form in my time here was incredible.”


“Not only did Matt understand, but he was compassionate. He understood the challenges we constantly faced, and when we reached out to him, you could tell he was really listening,” said Mavi Sanchez-Skakle, USTA New England Head of DEI and former Executive Director of the New Haven NJTL chapter, New HYTEs. “Something he did during the pandemic when everyone was running Zoom meetings, was he created sessions for us to come together and share our real-time experiences. He provided that intimate forum that allowed us leaders to connect on a deeper level to ensure that we could lean on each other, especially in these times.” 


Olson’s passion for NJTLs intensified over time. He decided to create the New England Tennis & Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3), in order to financially support underserved youth in New England, including NJTLs.


The foundation was founded in 2019.  


“We were one of the only USTA Sections that didn’t have a philanthropic foundation, so I knew I wanted that to happen,” Olson said. “We have the right leaders on the board who can propel it to great things. This foundation has so much potential and I’m excited to see where it goes.” 


Olson's presence, support and direction trickled down to every aspect of the New England Section and its initiatives. He was a supporter of the Tennis in the Parks program, which launched in 2018 and has since helped put a racquet into the hands of more than 2,500 new youth and adult players on public courts. 


He cherished his time working with the New England Senior Tennis Foundation and their leaders and never turned down the opportunity to support Tennis4All, a Boston-based LGBTQ+ tennis organization. He especially enjoyed giving his input in helping create and run organization-wide events like Tennis Weekend, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and awards banquets. 


Olson’s impact on USTA New England was recognized in 2021 on a national level, as New England was given Racquet Sports Industry Magazine’s Section of the Year award.


“Matt and I started at USTA New England at the same time as the new Executive Director and President, respectively. I could not have asked for a better colleague and leader,” said Scott Steinberg, USTA New England President from 2015-2017. “Not only does he understand the strategies and tactics necessary to successfully manage a USTA Section office and grow the game of tennis, he excels at developing and maintaining positive working relationships with fellow professional staff, volunteers, and others. Matt has done a terrific job as Executive Director for USTA New England, and I wish him all the best as he heads to USTA Southern.”


Olson valued his time in New England for its culture, its scenery and most importantly, its people. For years, he yearned for a change of scenery from the south, but deep down he knew his heart was always in Atlanta and that one day he’d return. 


“Boston is a true city with a community feel. I enjoyed the trips to Newport, Stowe, Provincetown, and so many destinations around New England, and the seafood is great, but it was the people that ultimately kept me here,” Olson said. “These seven years flew by so fast, and the experience of being in this role and working with the staff, board and volunteers, has taught me so much and prepared me for my new role at Southern. I am grateful for my time in New England and to those who made it so memorable, and I’m truly appreciative of everyone who helped me learn and grow along the way.”


Olson is scheduled to start at USTA Southern on February 16. 

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