New England

New England Holds

Successful Tennis Weekend 

James Maimonis, Manager, Media & Communications  |  November 19, 2019

NEWTON, MA- USTA New England’s 2019 Tennis Weekend brought together approximately 200 tennis providers from New England and around the country to network and strategize about how to grow tennis in 2020 and beyond. The annual event was held from November 15-16 at the Boston Marriott Newton in Newton, MA.


Keynote Speaker and Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Gucci, Renée Tirado, headlined this year’s distinguished group of speakers and sessions that ranged from a panel of Tennis in the Parks experts to a customer service training from a former Disney and current USTA employee.   


“Our goal is to provide something for everyone. We want our agenda to relate to as many providers as possible since we’re all on the same team and have a passion for growing the sport of tennis,” said Sarah Wishart, Senior Manager of Recreational Programs & Events, and Tennis Weekend organizer.



Tirado, who is the former Diversity & Inclusion Director for USTA, and more recently the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Major League Baseball, sat down with USTA New England Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Chantal Roche, to discuss D&I in the workplace.


She shared her inspiring story about being a woman and a Latina climbing the corporate ladder and stressed the importance of always bringing your best self to work.  


“Everyone in here is diverse. It’s beyond race, gender and orientation. It’s about the foods you like, places you see, your interests, all of that is valuable to who you are,” Tirado said. “From an inclusion standpoint, it’s providing a platform of equity to allow all your voices to have value and hopefully to impact and influence and do so not at the exclusion of others. Diversity is being asked to come to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.”


Rafael Rivera, USTA’s Guest Experience Manager for the National Campus, spoke about how crucial providing great customer service is in the tennis world. A former Disney employee, Rivera’s session, ‘Bringing the Disney Magic to the Tennis Courts,’ was just that, magical. The interactive session got people on their feet and sharing ideas with one another.  

“If anything, I aspire to spread the message that customer service is imperative to our tennis ecosystem. We are fostering an emotional connection people have with our sport,” Rivera said. “For many it’s more than just a weekend tournament, someone’s weekly lesson or their first time on court. It’s not just someone else’s life, it’s someone’s escape from the everyday. It’s more than just an economic or social transaction. This is a relationship. This is their story and we are a part of that story.” 


Scott Laakso, Chair of the USTA National Parks Committee, led a panel discussion on how to best utilize public courts to increase tennis participation, and Lauren Tracy, USTA’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, focused her session on keeping players safe at their facility.


Heather Hawkes, USTA’s Senior Manager of Digital Services and Community Tennis shared an inside look at USTA’s plans to replace TennisLink and gave a sneak peek at the tennis management tools USTA has been working to develop.


USTANE’s Director of Marketing, Alex Wesley, and USTA’s Manager of Social Media Strategy and Analytics, Jonathan Zipper, led a social media-focused session about getting new adults into the sport, while Shawna Fors, USTANE’s Player Development Manager, and Jon Kostek, USTANE’s Sr. Manager of Youth Play, outlined upcoming changes to junior tournaments.


USTANE staff also organized two on-court sessions at Longfellow Tennis Club Wayland to kick off the Tennis Weekend festivities. Kelly Day, Director of Junior Tennis at Longfellow Natick, demonstrated how to run a Team Challenges and Team Tournaments to introduce youth players to team play, while Ryan Harry, Head Pro at the Hall of Fame Tennis Club, led a session on running an effective practice over two courts.


Tennis Weekend attendees included tennis providers from clubs, CTAs (Community Tennis Associations), NJTL (National Junior Tennis and Learning) chapters, schools, parks and recreation departments and more.


“The best thing about this weekend is the networking. Each year I meet some amazing people who give me great ideas on how to grow the game of tennis in my area, plus I learn about programs locally that I never knew about,” said Connecticut Tennis Pro, Marcus Hooks. “It’s very important to have these events because there are so many people doing great things in their community, and one big problem for one organization can be a small fix another. With this weekend, we have the opportunity to make those bonds and help each other.”


On Saturday at dinner, USTA New England formally introduced its new 501c3 charitable arm, New England Tennis & Education Foundation. The foundation will collaborate with New England NJTLs.


Throughout November, USTA is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the NJTL network. To celebrate the 16 New England chapters, The New England Tennis & Education Foundation displayed artwork submitted by NJTL students at the conference dinner. There was also a hallway of posters to showcase each chapter’s individual story.  Students and coaches from both Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center and Grassroots Tennis & Education spoke about the positive impact NJTLs have had on their upbringing.  

For the second consecutive year, Tennis Weekend concluded with the organization’s annual Awards Ceremony.. The 2019 recipients went above and beyond to improve tennis in New England in their own unique way throughout the year. The following winners were honored in an emotional and impactful ceremony:


Community Tennis Association of the Year- Marshfield Tennis Club, Marshfield, MA (Given to President, Bud Duksta)

NJTL of the Year- Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center, Dorchester, MA (Given to CEO, Toni Wiley)

Junior Team Tennis Organizer of the Year- Kelly Day, Holliston, MA

Organization of the Year- St. Peter’s Grand Slam Tennis, Portland, ME (Given to Wayne St. Peter, founder)

Wheelchair Tennis Player of the Year- Melissa Hoffman, Wayland, MA

Edwin Goodman Family of the Year- The DeGroot Family, Charlotte, VT.


Peter Francesconi, editor of Tennis Industry Magazine, also named three New England recipients National Champions of Tennis. The winners are as follows:


High School Coach of the Year: Doug Chapman, Somerset, MA

Junior Tennis Champion of the Year- David Kimani, Norwalk, CT

Innovative Tennis Event of the Year- USTANE’s Provider Appreciation Month (accepted by Alex Wesley, Director of Marketing)


Harvey Leonard, Chief Meteorologist for Boston’s WCVB-TV Channel 5, emceed the ceremony. In addition to his passion for weather, Leonard is an avid tennis player and fan.


“I really feel strongly about the sport, and I think it helps grow you as a person. So many things you do on a tennis court, you can apply to life,” Leonard said. “I work a later shift, so when I have an opportunity to play tennis and then go to work, whether I won or lost, I have a better day at work. I feel better about myself, I feel healthier, I’m energized and ready to do my job.” 


Leonard was recognized on November 15 by the Massachusetts Broadcasters Association as the 2019 Broadcaster of the Year.


USTA New England would like to thank its Tennis Weekend sponsors:


Ame & Lulu

Clutch Towels


Bridgewater State University


Guilford Racquet & Swim Club's Guilford College Showcase

Corporate Communications 

USPTA New England

Granny Squibb's Organic Iced Tea

USTA Eastern Massachusetts

International Tennis Hall of Fame


Click here for videos of the award winners. 




Related Articles