Northern California

Q&A with Anne Warner Cribbs

March 15, 2023

In celebration of Women's History Month, USTA NorCal is sharing stories of those who are changing the game. Throughout the month, USTA NorCal is celebrating many of the great women that make up our NorCal tennis community and highlighting their personal tennis stories, unique perspectives and contributions to our sport. 


Meet Anne Warner Cribbs. She is an Olympian and trailblazer in women’s sports. Warner Cribbs won her first gold medal at the 1959 Pan American Games at the age of 14.  She also won the gold as part of the 400-meter medley relay team in the 1960 Olympics in Rome  and placed fifth in the 200-meter breaststroke.  Warner Cribbs helped co-found the American Basketball League, which set the standard for women’s professional sports, in 1998. The following year, she became President and CEO of the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee, which sought to bring the 2012 Olympic Games to the San Francisco Bay Area.


Most recently, Warner Cribbs has been instrumental in leading the Bay Area Senior Olympic Committee (BASOC) and the Bay Area Senior Games, which promote healthy, active lifestyles for adults over the age of 50. The goal is to provide excellent conditions for seniors who seek a competitive environment along with the camaraderie of other athletes. For more than 10 years, Warner Cribbs has been a big advocate for including tennis in the Games, even when interest and participation in the sport through the Games was low. She has continually worked with USTA NorCal and other partners to make sure tennis continued to be an activity in the Senior Games.


Warner Cribbs joined USTA NorCal to share more about her journey, the importance of creating fair play opportunities, her passion for sports and more.

Q&A with Anne Warner Cribbs


Q: You have been a big supporter of making sure tennis is included in the Senior Games (even when there was not a lot of interest). Why do you think it is important to promote tennis and have it be a part of the Senior Games, as well as people’s lives? 

A: I think of tennis as a lifelong sport and a perfect sport to be included in the Senior Games. Nevertheless, when we brought the Senior Games to the Bay Area regionally many years back, we didn’t always get much interest or participation. As a result, I started asking about how we could improve participation. I connected with Sada Chidambaram, a longtime NorCal tennis player who was interested in becoming a volunteer, and he jumped in to be a commissioner to help us in our goal of getting more participants for tennis in the Games. He helped connect us with USTA NorCal and we were able to collaborate and help solve some of the issues we were facing. This year, we have a great group participating in tennis and it continues to grow. Overall, I think it is really important for people of all ages to be outside and exercise.

Q: As an Olympian, athlete and woman, what do you think it means to be a leader within the sports industry/tennis community?  


A: Gosh, I am not sure I am a “leader,” but I love the opportunity to organize events and see them be successful and help people who may not have otherwise had the opportunity. I think through my work right now, it is so fun to see women in the Games who are now 50 and over get to compete in tennis and all of the other sports. Many of these women are pre-Title 9 babies and never had the opportunities in sports growing up as they have now. 


My first jobs were in teaching and coaching swimming, and I love to help find that spark in people and help them find the best in themselves. In my opinion, sports are key in that and are great for persistence and working hard. I really love it and the fact that I can get involved in organizations that are underserved. 


Q: Why do you think it is important to have a diverse representation of people in tennis and the sports industry?  


A: Diverse representation is so important across the board, and not just in tennis and sports. I believe everyone has something to share with others and to learn from others and different perspectives are so important in this mindset. Additionally, I think it’s also important for everyone to see people who look like they do in leadership and decision-making roles in sports and in life.


Q: In your opinion, how can we better bring together people of different identities, cultures and ages through tennis?  

A: I think I gained a good perspective on this when I was a founder of the women’s American Basketball League. I remember a colleague said little girls have to see girls who look like them, and I could not agree more. The solutions for bringing diversity and the inclusion of different identities and cultures are not always easy, but it starts with having representation on the committees and in leadership at the government level, local level and having diverse people be a part of the planning process. It’s really about ensuring there are people who bring different perspectives. This all leads to providing programs and outreach for everyone and making the resources available to all. Within tennis, some of the ways to do this include, providing programs for all, no matter where people live, and making equipment available – programs too – at an affordable cost and easy to enroll. 


Q: Why do you think it's important that we have a special month to honor women? What does Women’s History Month represent to you personally?

 I love the stories about women who have achieved a lot against a lot of odds, and I think it is important we share these. There weren't a lot of opportunities in sports for women in the past and so it is great to reflect on. While we are not done yet, it’s important for women to celebrate what they've done in their life. Tennis-wise, I love the stories of pioneer women like Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals and it goes back again to having girls see others who have come before them and represent them.

Q: What advice would you give to others who are interested in starting tennis or taking on a leadership role in tennis?  


A: When you have a good idea, don't be afraid to speak up and use your voice; I think it’s also key to be willing to listen to what other people have to say. Additionally, I think it also comes down to understanding that partnerships with people are important because everyone has something to bring to the table and everyone has something important to say. And with that, don’t underestimate funding and money. They are part of the foundation to make real change. 


Q: Has there been a learning curve or a major insight into your tennis involvement thus far?

A: I would say one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that partnerships are important – BASOC, USTA NorCal and enthusiastic outreach are a few examples in my case. At end of the day, we all want the same thing. One of the core values of the Olympic Games sums it up well in that we want “To educate youth through sport to build a better and more peaceful world.”

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